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US Airstrikes in Syria Draw Praise, Concern in Congress

  • Cindy Saine

The guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) launches a Tomahawk cruise missile as seen from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). George H.W. Bush and Philippine Sea are part of Carrier Strike Group 2, supporting maritime security

The guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) launches a Tomahawk cruise missile as seen from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). George H.W. Bush and Philippine Sea are part of Carrier Strike Group 2, supporting maritime security

U.S. lawmakers are reacting to the first U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, with a number of congressional leaders praising the action taken by President Barack Obama. But some members of Congress say the nature of the U.S. mission is shifting, and that Congress needs to debate and vote on authorization of a broader and more sustained military campaign against terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.

Members of Congress are scattered across the country for a seven-week recess, many of them campaigning for the November 4th congressional elections. But a number of lawmakers came out in strong support of the first U.S. airstrikes against militant group targets inside Syria.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said it is historic that the strikes involved forces from Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Republican House Speaker John Boehner said he supports the airstrikes ordered by the president, understanding they are just one step in what must be a larger effort to defeat the terrorist organization.

Speaking at the White House Tuesday, President Obama highlighted bipartisan support for the U.S. mission in the House and the Senate.

But there were also some lawmakers who expressed concern that the nature of U.S. military action is shifting. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine spoke at an event at the Center for American Progress research institute in Washington.

“The point that I think is so critical is that the president shouldn’t be doing this without Congress. And maybe more to the point, frankly, if we are going to assess some culpability, Congress shouldn’t be allowing it to happen without Congress," said Kaine.

Before leaving town for the recess, the House and Senate both voted on a narrow measure to authorize the Defense Department to train and equip vetted Syrian rebels in the fight against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said that it all that is required for now.

"The national security of the United States is definitely threatened by ISIS. As I have said over and over, I believe the president has the constitutional authority to strike ISIS in Syria, as he already has in northern Iraq. And that is under his constitutional duty as commander-in-chief," said Nelson.

Congress returns on November 12th, and then will have one month to approve a spending bill to keep the federal government running past December 11th. Some lawmakers are saying Congress will also have to authorize additional funds for the costly air campaign against Islamic State targets, and that approving the money should be part of a broader debate to authorize the whole mission.

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