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.
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.
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."
Key Republicans on Capitol Hill said Friday night that they supported the 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 press 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."
"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 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."