On Friday evening, President Trump authorized an attack on Syria. However, at least one Republican is joining a host of Democrats challenging his authority to do so.
The attack was announced Friday, and is being carried out in coordination with the United Kingdom and France. UK Prime Minister Theresa May, along with France President Emmanuel Macron, condemned last week’s chemical weapons attack that killed approximately 40 Syrian civilians, blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the casualties.
Russia — a close ally of the Assad regime — previously warned the United States against launching missiles in retaliation for the attack, saying it would not hesitate to shoot down American missiles and attack American missile launch sites. There is also potential for repercussions from Iran — another ally of Syria.
Russia has said it has “irrefutable evidence” the attack was staged, and a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry accused the UK of staging the attack to justify military operations.
“The Syrian regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in the most cruel and abhorrent way,” Prime Minister May said in a statement. “A significant body of information, including intelligence, indicates the Syrian regime is responsible for this latest attack.”
BREAKING: President Trump has ordered "precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad." https://t.co/TCdxyprJeQ pic.twitter.com/IdDnQKOr1N
— ABC News (@ABC) April 14, 2018
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) April 14, 2018
— Daily News Egypt (@DailyNewsEgypt) April 14, 2018
The announcement of the attack provoked a strong response from Congressional Democrats, who tweeted that while the chemical attack was, in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-California) words, a “war crime,” President Trump must obtain Congressional authority to carry out military action in Syria.
.@realDonaldTrump must come to Congress to obtain a new AUMF, present a clear set of objectives, & ultimately hold Putin accountable for the bloodshed he has enabled. https://t.co/Mwdwbs289X pic.twitter.com/9f3AB1SJnX
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) April 14, 2018
Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons attack against his own people merited a strong international response — these attacks must not be tolerated. However morally justified, the strikes risk serious escalation. Absent congressional authorization, they are also on thin legal ground.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 14, 2018
I hope my congressional colleagues of both parties will join me in reminding the president that America has three branches of government, and that he must respect Congress's role in deciding military action.
— Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (@RepRoybalAllard) April 14, 2018
As I said in 2013, under Pres. Obama, Constitution requires congressional authorization for use of military force in Syria. Previous 9/11-related authorization doesn't cover strike on Syrian gov't. @realDonaldTrump's actions tonight appear to be unlawful if not unconstitutional.
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) April 14, 2018
While the responses from Democrats are typical, given their past warnings to Trump about taking unilateral action, at least two House Republicans, as of this writing, have broken rank to condemn President Trump’s decision to carry out strikes in Syria without Congressional approval. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) accused Trump of violating the separation of powers explicitly outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) also accused Trump of violating Article 1 of the Constitution, and called the strikes “illegal and reckless.”
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.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) April 14, 2018
These offensive strikes against Syria are unconstitutional, illegal, and reckless. The next speaker of the House must reclaim congressional war powers as prescribed in Article I of the Constitution. @SpeakerRyan has completely abdicated one of his most important responsibilities.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 14, 2018
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution lays out the powers given to Congress, which include the power “To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water,” as well as the power “To raise and support armies,” with the stipulation that “no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years.”
Despite the Constitution’s strict language, the two-year provision in the Constitution about Congressional authority “to raise and support armies” has already been violated. The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force that Congress passed in response to the 9/11 attacks was cited well into President Barack Obama’s second term, when Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook cited it as justification for attacking ISIS targets in Libya in 2016, despite ISIS not existing in 2001.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg commended the coordinated military response in Syria, saying the attack would “reduce the regime’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons.”
BREAKING: @NATO Sec-Gen @jensstoltenberg, "I support the actions taken by the US, the UK and France against the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities and capabilities. This will reduce the regime’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons."
— Kevin Baron (@DefenseBaron) April 14, 2018
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.