A bipartisan group of US lawmakers are seeking to ensure Congress votes on a future military attack on Syria, following President Donald Trump’s unilateral missile strike, which have sparked new calls for a war vote.
Democratic Party representatives Jim McGovern and Republican Tom Cole are circulating a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan to call for the House to debate a war authorization, when Congress returns from its two-week recess later this month, CNN reported. The letter’s content has not yet been released publicly.
Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian airbase in Homs province on April 7 without congressional approval. The attack was launched just a day after he accused President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical weapons attack, which killed at least 70 people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province.
The Trump administration said it already had the authority to conduct a missile strike.
The Constitution provides the president with authority to use the military as needed as the commander in chief, according to CNN.
"The leadership of neither party so far has wanted to do this," Cole said. "I respect that. They don't want to expose their members to what they think could be a tough or controversial vote. But you get elected to vote, and you do have a constitutional responsibility.”
Following the strikes on Syria, Ryan said the attack was "fully within the President's authority," and that it was "appropriate" for the administration to consult with Congress on its next steps.
House Democrats held a conference call earlier this week to discuss their party’s strategy on a war authorization, which Congress would give Trump to launch a military action in Syria, but potentially limit the steps he could take, such as deploying ground combat troops.
"I just don't get a good feeling that whatever we're doing has been thoroughly thought out and there's some kind of a plan," said the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel (Pictured below).
"He needs to tell us what his strategy is in Syria, what he thinks he's going to do in the future -- and whatever he decides to do, the President has to come to Congress for authorization," he added.
Meanwhile, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce said a war authorization would be necessary only if the US administration takes military action against Syria for duration longer than 60 days. "If this goes out more than 60 days, of course, there needs to be an authorization of use of military force in order to take out any other gas attack."
According to congressional aides and lawmakers, Democrats plan to press the president to explain whether he will conduct more strikes against the Assad government, CNN reported. They said that lawmakers are not likely to take up a war vote with Trump because they speculate it become unpopular or go badly.
Lawmakers also disagree whether a war authorization should give a free hand to the President or establish restrictions on him.