The White House announced Friday that congressional leadership had been briefed before President Joe Biden ordered strikes on Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria on Thursday and that lawmakers would be given a full classified briefing on the matter next week.
“The Department of Defense briefed Congressional leadership before the action last night. The Administration has been briefing the Hill at the Member and staff-level today. There will be a full classified briefing early next week at the latest,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement Friday, after several Democrats called for information on the rationale for the strike.
“The American people deserve to hear the Administration’s rationale for these strikes and its legal justification for acting without coming to Congress. Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances. Congress must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, said in a statement.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he looked forward “to receiving more specific information about yesterday’s airstrike in Syria.”
A Pentagon spokesman said earlier that the strikes were in retaliation for attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Iraq.
“There’s not much more that I’ll be able to add at this point other than the fact that we’re confident in the target we went after, we know what we hit,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Thursday. “We’re confident that the target was being used by the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes.”
Psaki said Friday that, by authorizing the strike, Biden is “sending an unambiguous message that he’s going to act to protect Americans and when threats are posed he has the right to take an action at the time and the manner of his choosing.”
Lawmakers were divided on the strikes, with some questioning them and others saying they were lawful.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said Biden’s attack was “a reckless abuse of his presidential powers,” adding, “We should be ENDING wars, not starting them.”
“I condemn meddling in Syria’s civil war. I also condemn attacking a sovereign nation without authority,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said, sharing an old tweet from White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), though, said he appreciated the strikes. “It is imperative that our enemies know that attacking Americans comes at a cost,” he wrote in a statement.
“POTUS authorized an airstrike on Iran-backed militia in Syria in response to attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq I support POTUS’s decision to deter Iranian aggression & defend our troops, allies & interests,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) added in a tweet.
The Associated Press and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.