The United States fired 59 tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase on Thursday in response to a chemical weapons attack in northwestern Syria earlier this week that killed more than 80 people.
Launched from two U.S. Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, the strikes are the first direct military assault by American forces on the Syrian government of Bashar Assad.
President Donald Trump’s decision to launch a missile attack on Syria, which was not announced in advance, drew mixed reactions from members of the U.S. Senate and Congress.
Referencing Assad and Russia directly, Arizona Sen. John McCain said the strikes sent an “important message.” McCain had previously voted in favor of a 2013 Obama Administration bill that, if it passed, would have authorized the U.S. to use military force against the government of Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler were among many Republicans that issued messages in support of the move. Hartzler said that she hoped the President’s decision would “prevent further bloodshed.”
Republican Senator Bob Corker, the current chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations — who also voted in favor of the 2013 authorization of military force bill — said in a statement that: “It is critical Assad knows he will no longer enjoy impunity for his horrific crimes against his own citizens.”
But Republicans did not unequivocally support the strikes. In a series of tweets, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said that the President should have congressional approval for military action and wrote that prior interventions in the region had “done nothing to make us safer and Syria will be no different.” Paul was considered one of the leading figures in the intervention against the 2013 authorization bill.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin from Illinois, who voted in favor of the 2013 bill, called the strikes a “measured response to the Syrian nerve gas atrocity.” But he cautioned that further action or escalation beyond airstrikes would require close scrutiny by Congress and “engaging the American people in that decision.”
New Jersey Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman condemned Trump’s intervention in Syria as “insane and dangerous.”
“If vital to national security- why wasn’t Congress made aware?” she tweeted. Watson Coleman also retweeted a statement made by Trump in 2013, in which he said it would be a “big mistake” if then-President Obama did not get Congressional approval before attacking Syria.
Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego from Arizona — an Iraq war veteran — questioned the timing and strategy behind the operation.
There were more voices of dissent from Calif. Congressman Ro Khanna, who criticized the U.S. for not learning from Iraq and Libya. “Every time we have attacked since 2001, terrorism has spread,” he tweeted.
Calif. Rep. Barbara Lee, a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and the only member of either house of Congress to vote against the authorization of the use of force following the 9/11 attacks, called the strikes an “act of war.”