Congress wants a say on Syria strategy, split on timing, what to do
Congress found a rare point of bipartisan agreement Friday, demanding that President Donald Trump consult them on any further action in Syria, but splitting over how soon they should open that debate and whether the US should launch another full-scale war in the Middle East.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been broadly supportive of Trump's decision to strike back after Syria's chemical attack. But Democrats and some Republicans have said they now want more answers on what Trump's next steps will be -- and whether that will require Congress to authorize further action.
The bigger question of whether the US should wage a full-scale war in Syria has scrambled typical partisan battle lines in the Capitol, with hard-line conservatives, libertarians and staunch liberals lining up against any intervention, and more moderate and mainstream Democrats and Republicans suggesting that Trump present a long-term plan before Congress.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called on the House of Representatives Friday to return from its two-week break in order to debate whether to authorize military action against Syria.
"The President's action and any response demands that we immediately do our duty. Congress must live up to its constitutional responsibility to debate an Authorization of the Use of Military Force against a sovereign nation," Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Friday, just 12 hours after US forces launched a missile strike on a Syrian airbase.
But a Ryan spokeswoman would not say Friday whether he would agree to cancel lawmakers' two-week break to open debate.
"The chemical weapons attack committed by the Assad regime was a flagrant violation of international standards, and preventing a deepening of the humanitarian crisis and instability in Syria is clearly in the United States' national interest," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement Friday. "As such, last night's response was fully within the President's authority. It is now appropriate for the administration to consult with Congress as it considers next steps to resolve the long-running crisis in Syria."
Senators were briefed on the strike and next steps Friday afternoon at the Capitol. Just a few hours before that briefing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that US allies in the Middle East should be heartened by Thursday's strike.
"If I were one of our Sunni Arab allies watching this, I'd be encouraged that America was back in the business of being more assertive, less passive. That does not mean you are going to send in the troops every time there is a skirmish somewhere, but I thought it was very reassuring," McConnell told reporters.