Kaine Demands Briefing on Why Biden Authorized Syrian Airstrikes

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
February 26, 2021 Updated: February 27, 2021

Several Democrats on Friday said they want information on why the Biden administration launched airstrikes in Syria.

“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.”

“I will be looking to the text of the War Powers Resolution as I evaluate the appropriate role for Congress in addressing both attacks against U.S. forces by Iranian-backed militias and America’s response,” he added.

The War Powers Resolution states that the president “shall in every possible instance consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement is clearly indicated by the circumstances.”

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The Pentagon building is seen in Arlington, Va., on Oct. 9, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

In the absence of a declaration of war by Congress, or other limited exceptions, the use of the U.S. military shall be reported within 48 hours by the president to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro tempore of the Senate, “together with a full account of the circumstances under which such hostilities were initiated, the estimated scope and duration of such hostilities, and the constitutional and legislative authority under which the introduction of hostilities took place,” the resolution also states.

The Senate tried to curb former President Donald Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran last year, but failed to override a veto.

Biden on Thursday authorized airstrikes against sites in eastern Syria the Pentagon said are linked to Iranian-backed militant groups.

A Pentagon spokesman said the strikes were in retaliation for recent 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. “We’re confident that the target was being used by the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes.”

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on Feb. 19, 2021. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

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.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.