President Donald Trump’s first major use of military force drew support and opposition in both political parties in Congress, as key lawmakers backed the barrage of cruise missiles, intended to punish Syria for its chemical weapons attack earlier this week that killed dozens of civilians.
“This action in Syria was appropriate and just,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“After six years of inaction by the Obama Administration, I am glad to see that President Trump is willing to stand up for these innocent victims and stop those responsible for this violence,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).
“No world leader can get away with gassing innocent children to death,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a frequent critic of President Trump. “This was long overdue.”
There were also some Democrats who gave the President their full support, echoing their GOP counterparts on the need to send a strong message to the Assad regime in Damascus.
“I hope this teaches Assad not to use chemical weapons again,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).
“Tonight’s strike in Syria appears to be a proportional response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, as she urged the President to seek the backing of Congress if he plans to escalate those strikes.
Most Democrats though found fault with the Trump attacks.
“This is an act of war,” fumed Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who demanded a full Congressional debate on the action.
“What is the strategy here? What is our end goal?” asked Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). “This is not how you conduct a military strike.”
“That feeling when a President governs in a manner entirely opposite to what he promised,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI).
On that point, during his campaign for President, Mr. Trump flashed two competing visions at times for the role of the United States in the world – one was, “America First” – an almost isolationistic argument, that the U.S. should stay out of foreign entanglements, and use money for improvements at home, not on wars overseas.
The other Trump argument was a much more direct and forceful appeal, that the U.S. was playing patty cake on the world stage too often, and it was time to bomb the living daylights out of anyone who was in our way.
Meanwhile, the more libertarian wing of the Republican Party was not pleased that Mr. Trump had chosen the option of military action to deal with Assad.
“The President needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
One lawmaker, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), went back and pulled out an old tweet by Mr. Trump from 2013, when he was criticizing President Obama about possibly using military force in Syria, as Massie labeled these strikes a “big mistake.”