Spotlight: U.S. Congress divided over Syria strike

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-08 10:46:50|Editor: Zhang Dongmiao
Video PlayerClose

WASHINGTON, April 7 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Congress is divided over Thursday's missile strike at Syria ordered by President Donald Trump, with some lawmakers voicing strong support while others questioning its constitutionality.

The U.S. military fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian military base after a chemical attack in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, which killed at least 70 people, mostly civilians. The Trump administration held the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad responsible for Tuesday's gas attack.

Most Congress members were not notified of the military action as they were preparing to leave Washington D.C. for a two-week recess.

Reaction to the strike mostly followed a partisan line as most Republican lawmakers endorsed Trump's action, while most Democrats were opposed on the grounds that he needed authorization of Congress for acts of war.

Republican congressional leaders largely supported Trump's move as an appropriate response to the chemical attack in Syria.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who voiced opposition in 2013 when former President Barack Obama sought Congress' authorization for military action in Syria, took a U-turn in his stance to praise Trump's action as "appropriate and just."

"These tactical strikes make clear that the Assad regime can no longer count on Americans inaction as it carries out atrocities against the Syrian people," Ryan said in a statement issued Thursday night.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, also expressed support to "both the action and objective" of the strike ordered by Trump.

John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, both Republican hawks, issued a joint statement Thursday night to laud Trump's move, saying he "deserves the support of the American people."

Ryan led a long list of Republican lawmakers who have drastically shifted their position on military intervention in Syria. Most of them were opposed to granting authorization of war powers to Obama in 2013.

The latest strike reignited a debate among lawmakers on the constitutionality of the president's ordering military actions overseas without approval from Congress.

Most Democrats and even some Republicans in Congress questioned the legality of Trump's order, citing the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress sole power to declare war. They also demanded Trump seek congressional authorization for further military action.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, sent a letter Friday to House Speaker Ryan, requesting the cancellation of the House recess for a debate on the military strike at Syria.

She said Congress "must live up to its constitutional responsibility to debate an authorization of the use of military force against a sovereign nation."

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy criticized Trump's move as "a 24-hour pivot on Syria policy," because the president was largely against involvement in Syria's civil war before the Tuesday chemical attack.

"He clearly made this decision based off an emotional reaction to the images on TV, and it should worry everyone about the quixotic nature of this administration's foreign policy and their potential disdain for the war-making authority of the United States Congress," Murphy said.

The Democrats found a few unlikely allies in the Republican camp in doubting the legality of Trump's action, including Republican Senator Rand Paul and House Representative Justin Amash.

Paul criticized Trump's order to strike Syria as unconstitutional. "The Constitution is very clear that war originates in the legislature," he told reporters Friday.

"You vote before you go to war, not after you go to war," Paul said.

Amash questioned the Trump administration's justification in making the decision, saying such strikes are "act of war" that requires authorization from Congress.

"Airstrikes are an act of war. Atrocities in Syria cannot justify departure from Constitution, which vests in Congress power to commence war," he tweeted Thursday night.

The debate demonstrated that any attempt by Trump to seek new authorization of war powers from Congress in future would be difficult. Obama failed to gain the powers in 2013 to strike Syria and to formally authorize a war in 2015 against the Islamic State terrorist group. Enditem