Texans from both political parties praised Donald Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian airfield linked to recent chemical attacks but stressed that Congress must be consulted before the White House takes further military action.
The U.S. military launched 59 Tomahawk missiles on Thursday night in Trump’s first major military attack since assuming the presidency. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a Wichita Falls native, laid blame on Russia for allowing Syrian President Bashar Assad the latitude to conduct chemical attacks.
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“I think this was a very narrow strike designed to go after and deter the use of chemical weapons,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said to reporters after a classified briefing on the airstrikes Friday.
Cornyn, along with other Texans in Congress, said President Trump needs to have a long-term plan of what to do in Syria and asked, “Is our goal just to defeat ISIS or is our goal to change the regime?”
In either case, Cornyn said, the president must consult Congress for an authorization of military force.
“We don’t have the benefit of a larger strategy, for the same reason that I think the previous administration had coming up with a strategy, because it’s very, very complicated,” Cornyn said. “It’s gotten even more complicated since 2013, when President Obama came to us.”
In 2013, numerous Republicans and Democrats from Texas signed a letter asserting that if President Barack Obama bombed Syria without Congress’ approval it would be unconstitutional. Reps. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, and Roger Williams, R-Austin, signed the letter.
After initially praising Trump’s military action — which did not receive congressional authorization — Williams said in a statement that Congress must be consulted.
“Now that we have sent a message to the world, if President Trump has a long-term strategy he should come before Congress before any additional military action is taken,” Williams said.
Burgess said he was willing to cut short the congressional recess if Trump decided he must take additional action in Syria.
“The next step in this process is as important as the first,” Burgess said in a statement. “And before further military action is taken, it is Congress’ obligation to authorize war powers through the structure and debate of an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). This should occur sooner rather than later, even if it interferes with the scheduled congressional recess.”
Members of both parties in North Texas expressed support for the strike, and the need to consult Congress.
“Despite my support for the goals of last night’s airstrike, the crisis in Syria will not be resolved by one night of airstrikes,” Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said in a statement. “It is imperative that President Trump consults with Congress about the long-term strategy in Syria, the repercussions of last night’s actions and any future planned military operations.”
Former Fort Worth Democratic Mayor Hugh Parmer, a former top official for the U.S. Agency for International Development and the president of a nonprofit that provides humanitarian assistance to refugees, also praised the decision.
“Have to admit that I thoroughly agree with President Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against Syrian dictator Assad’s air forces in retaliation for Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians,” Parmer said in a Facebook post. “Failure to act in Syria in similar situation was the single biggest foreign policy mistake of President Obama’s administration, in my opinion.”
Reps. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, and Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, also praised Trump’s actions.
“I cannot more strongly applaud President Trump’s decisive actions against the government of Syria,” Granger said in a statement. “For years we have watched as the Syrian people endured unimaginable atrocities at the hand of their own government. The world cannot allow this type of evil to go unchecked.”
“President Trump’s decisive action and continued vigilance will undoubtedly save innocent lives,” Marchant said in a statement. “My hope is that this is the beginning of continued strategic actions by a global coalition to stabilize this region and save the Syrian people.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also praised the action while stressing that Congress must be included in future discussions.
“Any military action in Syria must be justified as protecting the vital national security interests of America — including decisive action to prevent chemical weapons from falling into the hands of radical Islamic terrorists,” Cruz said in a statement. “I look forward to our commander in chief making the case to Congress and the American people how we should do so in the coming days.”
A minority of politicians from both parties who support a non-intervention approach to foreign relations, including Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, did not support the decision to bomb Syria without congressional approval.
And at least one Texas Democrat in Congress — Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston — expressed reservations, tweeting that “no (number) of missile strikes will end terror in Syria.” She said that if the U.S. was “going to stop the killing,” Trump must confront Russian President Vladimir Putin, “who is propping up Assad.”
Lesley Clark contributed to this report.