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House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Stopping the next insurrection Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE (R-Wis.) said Thursday that President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' MORE has broad authority to attack Syria, precluding the need for Congress to act beforehand.
“The existing AUMF gives him the authority he needs to do what he may or may not do,” Ryan said during a press briefing in the Capitol.
The Pentagon is currently operating under a 17-year-old authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) approved in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks. A number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have pushed for years for Congress to pass an updated AUMF, reflecting the expanding geography and evolving enemies that have marked the war against terrorism since 2001.
House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTwo-thirds of Americans support banning lawmakers from trading stocks: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Watch: Lawmakers, activists, family members call for voting rights legislation on MLK day MORE (D-Calif.) is among them.
Breaking sharply with Ryan, she argued Thursday that Trump must come to Congress to seek approval for new strikes against Syria, as the administration contemplates its response to last weekend’s chemical attacks in a Damascus suburb, which reportedly killed at least 40 people.
“Our members believe, as do I, that we need a new AUMF,” she told reporters in the Capitol, just moments before Ryan took the same podium to argue the opposite position.
Pelosi was among the many lawmakers who approved of missile strikes against a Syrian airfield in April 2017, which Trump initiated as a direct response to a deadly chemical attack on civilians days before. Outside of a similarly “proportionate” engagement, Pelosi said, Trump will need congressional approval.
“What he did last year was proportionate. They went in in the spring, they made a hit on a Russian facility, it was proportional. Anything beyond that, he will need a new authorization for the use of military force.”
Ryan, echoing the concerns of many Republicans in his conference, warned that a new AUMF might prove too short a leash on the U.S. military to ensure the nation’s security.
“What I would hate to do in this time when we have asymmetric threats across the globe, particularly with ISIS, is to have an AUMF that ties the hands of the military behind their backs,” Ryan said. “The last thing I want to see is an AUMF that makes it much more difficult for our military to respond to keep us safe, because they have the authority to do that right now.”
Ryan also urged the administration to take the lead in an international response to the latest chemical attacks — an effort he says Trump is already undertaking.
“I won’t get ahead of the president. He is taking a very deliberate and careful response and approach to this. We’ve discussed this,” Ryan said. “[But] I think it’s important for us to help lead the international community to making sure that people are held accountable for these mass atrocities.”
Trump on Thursday said he’ll decide on a response “fairly soon.”