On the night of Thursday, April 6th, a central Syrian airfield was attacked by the United States military in a move labeled as a ‘retaliatory strike’ in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government in the early parts of the week.
The response from members of Congress have been mixed since the attack, with some questioning whether the attacks were legal or constitutional and others praising Trump and his administration for a fast response to the Syrian government using chemical weapons on their own people. Marco Rubio was one Senator who lauded Trump for the strike, stating that it was a tactical action that furthered the objective of the government of the United States.
When Rubio talked with CNN, he said that the decision was important, and that it would reduce the ability of the Syrian government to continue deploying air-based chemical attacks on its own citizens. He also stated that he hoped it was part of a larger comprehensive plan to deal with the Assad regime in Syria.
Two of the Senate’s most vocal members, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, also praised Trump for the military action against the Assad forces. They stated their praise was in part due to the fact that the Obama administration had refused such strategic attacks during their time in office. In a joint statement, the two Senators applauded Trump’s decision to act in what they called a ‘pivotal moment’ in Syria. They went on to say that it was most likely only a first step, and that strategic process must be gleaned from the lessons of history.
Paul Ryan also weighed in on the decision, calling it just and appropriate. He then compared the decision to one made by the Obama administration in 2013 when a similar chemical weapons attack occurred in Syria under the direction of Assad. He said that the strikes meant that the Syrian government can no longer assume that the United States will not respond to their civil rights atrocities, and that the task of resolving the Syrian crisis of one that will take accountability and action.
There were even some Democrats who praised Trump and his administration for their show of power, such as Bill Nelson, a Senator from Florida. However, the qualification of the strike is still under debate for some, including Republican Senator Rand Paul. He raised questions about whether the strike was legal, and others joined him in his curiosity, including Justin Amash, a Republican representative from Michigan.
Some members of Congress, including Democratic Representative Ted Lieu of California, raised the issue of the constitutionality of the strike. Tim Kaine, a Senator from Virginia, echoed the sentiment in a tweet he sent out describing the attack as unconstitutional since President Trump did not seek approval from Congress.
Dick Durbin, one of the leaders of the Senate Democrats, urged Congress to involve themselves in the issue as it moves forward. He indicated that the initial strike was only a response to the use of nerve gas by the Syrian government, but that Congress must approve any further action. He also stated that escalation beyond airstrikes and missiles will require the input of the American people.
Many of the leaders in the Democrat party followed the same tune, calling the initial airstrikes a potentially necessary step, but one that should not trigger a series of similar attacks without approval from Congress. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, said that it is imperative that the United States take action to let Assad know his atrocities will not go unnoticed, but that Trump and his administration need to formulate a strategy that should be approved by Congress before it is put into action.