Congress has concerns after lone wolf attack on Syria :: News :: phillytrib.com


In the aftermath of President Donald Trump's naval strikes targeting Syrian government military operations, Pennsylvania's congressional delegation expressed their concerns about the failure to consult Congress before force was used.

"Last night President Trump took unilateral action to use U.S. military force without the input of Congress," U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) said in a statement. "Congress needs to be a part of the conversation and more importantly a part of implementing a long-term strategy in Syria."

House colleague Brendan Boyle, also a Democrat, expressed similar concern in a statement.

"Our Constitution makes clear that these decisions must come before Congress. Congress must not abdicate this responsibility," Boyle said. "We, the people's elected representatives, must finally debate and vote on this issue."

During a Friday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump-ordered strike against Syria began about 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The action was taken in the wake of airplanes using chemical weapons against a rebel-held town in Syria, where a civil war has been ongoing since 2011.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military is accused of carrying out Tuesday's attack that killed at least 70 people, according to CNN reports. However, the government denied it was behind the assault on the Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province.

In response, Trump authorized a military strike, with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles being launched by at least two U.S. warships - the guided-missile destroyers USS Ross and USS Porter - on the Shayrat air base that supposedly housed equipment used in the chemical attack.

While the U.S. bombardment of the airbase has garnered bipartisan congressional support, it was ordered without the approval of Congress. However, lawmakers now want the Trump administration to allow congressional input on future military strategy against Syria.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.) said in a statement released Friday afternoon: "After seeing the photos of children killed in the chemical attack, it is hard to disagree with the president's decision to retaliate and strike the air base in Syria.

"But the President should have conferred with Congress. He should have reached out and asked for support from our allies. Going it alone does not work in today's world. And, he must come to Congress for all and any approval in the future," he added.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) was clear in his support for the missile strikes, calling them "an appropriate and proportionate response to a heinous attack by the Assad regime on Syrian civilians." But he called on the Trump administration to confer with Congress before taking further military action.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey released a statement Thursday night neither condemning nor praised the U.S. strikes.

"The Assad regime's latest chemical weapon attack on innocent men, women and children is horrific and appalling," Toomey said in a statement. "Over 400,000 Syrians have been killed so far, with millions more displaced. The civilized world has to respond. If the United Nations does not take appropriate action, then the United States must."

White House officials said they briefed more than two dozen of the 535 members of Congress on Thursday before the airstrike was carried out.

Philadelphia-based intelligence and military expert Malcolm Nance told MSNBC anchorman Brian Williams that the U.S. airstrikes targeted a small, secondary Syrian air base, which has been home to Iranian forces.

"We may not have just killed Syrians tonight," Nance said. "Also, we struck facilities that have sarin nerve gas and VX (nerve agent). Be prepared for Syrians to claim that civilians were killed by that, by the dispersal of those weapons in the immediate area."

Trump's decision to carry out military action without congressional approval is not unique to his presidency. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Congress passed the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which enables presidents to "use all necessary and appropriate force" to prevent terrorist attacks.

Since then, it was used by former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama in taking military action without getting approval from Congress. Obama even carried out military action in Syria, but Trump's airstrikes are the first to directly target the Assad government in Syria.