Nearly a week after a brief and sometimes tumultuous debate to give President Barack Obama the authority to arm and train vetted Syrian rebels to combat the Islamic State, members of the House of Representatives and Senate mostly snapped and saluted the president’s decision to launch air strikes in Syria Monday.
But not everyone was happy.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who voted for Obama’s Syrian rebel training plan, said Tuesday that the U.S. air strikes changed the nature of the battle and argued that Congress should immediately return to Washington and debate authorization for those air strikes and other war activities against the Islamic State.
‘I think the mission has now switched to an offensive mission, clearly,’ Kaine said on MSNBC Tuesday. ‘And I think Congress should be weighing in.”
Kaine told MSNBC’s Luke Russert that he was confident that lawmakers would get a chance to debate a broader authorization than the one both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly approved when lawmakers return for a lame duck session in mid-November.
‘It was unclear whether Congress intended to do anything, frankly, because leadership was saying the president has all the power he needs,’ Kaine said. ‘But in the last two weeks, the leadership I think has changed. They do acknowledge the president needs authorization. We will take up an authorization.’
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who voted in favor of Obama’s plan to train Syrian rebels, called the air strikes ‘a good first step’ that will be ‘inadequate to achieve the president’s objectives of destroying and defeating’ the Islamic State unless its accompanied by an overall strategy for Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East.
‘The president still has not presented the American people his long term objectives or vision for what success looks like in Syria, and so it’s not clear how his short term tactic to ‘simultaneously pressure ISIL’ fits into a larger strategy that can succeed.’
While Inhofe lauded the involvement of Arab states that assisted with the air strikes he chastised U.S. allies like Turkey for not being more involved in the effort against the Islamic State.
‘This is a shared fight against a clear and growing threat and will require additional cooperation and contributions from our partners,’ he said.
Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said she was pleased by the air strikes because she believes Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels will lead to mission creep, a prolonged U.S. military engagement. She voted against Obama training strategy last week.
‘I think as long as we can make some real significant progress by air strikes and, this is the bigger piece, to bring our allies in, that is what has made this and is going to make it a very successful effort,’ Fudge said on MSNBC. ‘I do believe that the president was right when he says that other nations, Arab nations, need to stand up – that’s what I’m pleased about today.’
Otherwise Obama’s action against the Islamic State Monday night was mostly lauded by congressional leaders.
‘I support the air strikes launched by the president, understanding that this is just one step in what must be a larger effort to destroy and defeat this terrorist organization,’ said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. ‘I wish our men and women in uniform Godspeed as they carry out this fight.’
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said ‘When in times of war and of peace it is important that we come together as a nation.’
‘I support the administration’s move to conduct air strikes against (the Islamic State) wherever it exists.’
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said ‘the presence of Arab nations in these air strikes and President Obama’s commitment that we will not use U.S. ground forces in combat are clear evidence that President Obama will not repeat the mistakes of the past.’
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., added his support, saying ‘the president is right to keep the country and Congress updated on military and diplomatic efforts – just as it will be important for the president to update on how the air campaign will fit into the overall strategy to destroy (the Islamic State).’