Democrats blast Trump for not seeking congressional approval for Syria strikes

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats blasted President Donald Trump on Friday night for circumventing Congress in authorizing U.S. strikes against Syria, calling it "unconstitutional" and questioning the strategy.

Many Republicans, on the other hand, applauded the president's move.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who has pushed Congress to pass a new authorization for the use of military force, deemed the president's action "illegal" because he proceeded without approval from lawmakers.

"President Trump's decision to launch airstrikes against the Syrian government without Congress's approval is illegal and — absent a broader strategy — it's reckless,” Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, said in a statement. "Today, it's a strike on Syria — what's going to stop him from bombing Iran or North Korea next? The last thing Congress should be doing is giving this president a blank check to wage war against anyone, anywhere."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that the Syrian regime's chemical weapons attack was a "brutally inhumane war crime that demands a strong, smart and calculated response." However, she said Trump must present a more comprehensive strategy on Syria to Congress and seek lawmakers' approval.

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Reaction to Trump ordering strikes against Syria
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Reaction to Trump ordering strikes against Syria

**Click through the following slides to see reaction to President Donald Trump's announcement that strikes were underway in Syria.**

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump is right to assert that the Assad regime’s evil acts cannot go unanswered, and the nations that ena… https://t.co/TdJYCTMZmk
Praying for our armed forces who are in harm’s way, and their families. Yes I am. This is a very serious moment we… https://t.co/rxrHykfmXH
While Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable for his unlawful use of chemical weapons against civilians, the stri… https://t.co/hwK0KJRCES
These offensive strikes against Syria are unconstitutional, illegal, and reckless. The next speaker of the House mu… https://t.co/JUAePSU7Y3
Congratulations to the Trump administration for adopting the same failed foreign policy and ignoring of the constit… https://t.co/2s2F8Vq9vc
I haven’t read France’s or Britain’s “Constitution,” but I’ve read ours and no where in it is Presidential authority to strike Syria.
Sen Markey says tonight’s attack on Syria neither constitutional nor wise. https://t.co/9oGiPtLgVl
The use of chemical weapons on civilians, including children, is one of the most abhorrent acts imaginable, and the… https://t.co/dmvYyfUExz
The barbarism from the Assad regime will not be tolerated. America and its allies are together to deliver the conse… https://t.co/vwmXHVNiPR
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Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., tweeted that it was the same as when Trump struck Syria last year without congressional approval.

"What changed? Zero," Swalwell tweeted. "They're still using chemical weapons. This is the result of a failure to have a strategy and engage Middle East countries to solve this problem."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "A pinpointed, limited action to punish and hopefully deter Assad from doing this again is appropriate, but the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria."

The president announced in an address to the nation from the White House that U.S. airstrikes, in tandem with the United Kingdom and France, were underway in Syria, in response to an alleged chemical attack near Damascus last weekend.

At a later Pentagon briefing, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the president had the authority to launch the strikes under Article II of the Constitution because Mattis said Trump was defending U.S. interests.

Key Republicans on Capitol Hill said Friday night that they supported Trump's decision.

"The United States has taken decisive action in coordination with our allies," said Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who said at his weekly news conference Thursday that he believed that Trump had authority to act against Syria with any new congressional approval. "We are united in our resolve that Assad's barbaric use of chemical weapons cannot go unanswered. His regime's unconscionable brutality against innocent civilians cannot be tolerated."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he supports "both the action and the objective."

"I applaud the president for taking military action against the Assad regime for its latest use of chemical weapons, and for signaling his resolve to do so again if these heinous attacks continue," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Of note was Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who faces a tough re-election fight against Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott, and who backed Trump's response to Syria, tweeting, “I support the attack because Assad must be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons."

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