Lawmakers slam Trump for bypassing Congress on Syria strike

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., listens during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid measured support for the U.S. cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base, some vocal Republicans and Democrats are reprimanding the White House for launching the strike without first getting congressional approval.

The politically diverse group ranges from the libertarian-leaning Kentucky GOP Rep. Tom Massie to Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016. They’ve told Trump the U.S. Constitution gives Congress sole power to declare war and said the president needs to convince them that they should.

“While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. “The president needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate. Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different.”


Said Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, on MSNBC: “You have to come to Congress.”

Yet that’s far easier said than done at a time when Congress is deeply polarized and dysfunctional. Republicans control the House and Senate yet have been unable to agree on health care legislation, let alone a new war powers resolution. Barack Obama asked Congress two years ago to formally authorize war against the Islamic State. There were a few hearings and lawmakers argued, but they never acted on the proposal.

GOP leaders praised Trump’s order to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles Thursday evening, targeting the base from which Syrian President Bashar Assad launched a chemical weapons attack earlier this week against his own people. More than 80 men, women and children were killed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he supported “both the action and objective.” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the strike “appropriate and just.” Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina declared that Trump “confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action.”

But Massie, who often breaks with his party, essentially called Trump a hypocrite for not getting permission from Congress. He retweeted late Thursday a 2013 tweet from Trump aimed at Obama, who at the time was considering taking military action in Syria.


“The president must get congressional approval before attacking Syria – big mistake if he does not!” Trump wrote then.

In his retweet , Massie used the hashtag “#bigmistake.”

In a statement Friday, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called Trump’s order an “ill-thought out military action” that “exposes the immoral hypocrisy of this administration’s policy in the Middle East.”


Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner