Members of Congress generally praise Syria strike, want more consultation from White House

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks to members of the media. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — House and Senate lawmakers generally supported President Donald Trump’s decision to strike against the Syrian government Thursday night, but cautioned Trump against unilaterally starting another war in the Middle East without first consulting Congress.

More than two dozen lawmakers were briefed on the strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government before they happened, a White House official told CNN.

A pair of defense hawks — Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham — who have frequently been critical of Trump, roundly praised the president’s decision Thursday night.

“Acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, they have sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin’s Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs,” McCain and Graham said in a joint statement. “Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action. For that, he deserves the support of the American people.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the U.S. military action “appropriate and just.”

“These tactical strikes make clear that the Assad regime can no longer count on American inaction as it carries out atrocities against the Syrian people,” Ryan said in a statement.

“I look forward to the administration further engaging Congress in this effort,” said Ryan, one of several lawmakers to say they wanted to hear more from the White House.

Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican who has frequently questioned military intervention, warned Trump in a string of tweets Thursday night that Congress must approve new action in the region.

“While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked. The President needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution. Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer and Syria will be no different,” Paul wrote.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, praised “the professionalism and skill of of our Armed Forces.”

“Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do,” Schumer said, before adding, “It is incumbent on the Trump administration to come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, said the strike “may deter” Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

“Nevertheless, this missile strike and the military action of our forces already in Syria, have yet to be authorized by Congress,” Schiff said. “Congress cannot abdicate its responsibility any longer and should vote on any use of force not made in self defense. This is necessary whether action is taken against terrorist groups or, as here, against regime capabilities.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, said Congress must end its two-week break, which for the House started Thursday, to return to Washington and weigh in on military action.

“This is an act of war. Congress needs to come back into session & hold a debate. Anything less is an abdication of our responsibility,” Lee tweeted.