Expanded Syria strikes divide Democrats

Democrats are split over the expansion of U.S. airstrikes in Syria this week, with some issuing strong statements of support and others saying the president should be seeking congressional approval.

The schism between those who say the president does need authorization from Congress and those who say he does not highlights a disunity that party leaders hoped to avoid before the midterm elections in November.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia MORE (D-N.H.), who is in a tough reelection fight, issued a strong statement in support of President Obama's airstrikes on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syrian (ISIS) on Tuesday.


"Striking ISIL targets in Syria sends the clear message that the United States and its allies will take the fight to these terrorists wherever they are," she said, using another name for the group.

"I have supported and will continue to support aggressive action to destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and I am encouraged that the United States was joined in this mission by Middle East partner nations," she said.

Her Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, released an attack ad Tuesday saying Shaheen seemed confused about the nature of the threat.

Several other Democrats issued unqualified statements of support for Obama's decision to strike in Syria.

“I strongly support the launch of military airstrikes against ISIL and al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

"I applaud the President's decision to take military action against ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria," Rep. Eliot Engel (N.J.), ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

Other Democrats, however, fear another endless war in Iraq and called for the president to seek congressional authority for his expanded air war into Syria and the continuing one in Iraq.

“If we’re going to engage this mission, we got to do it right or not do it. And if we don’t get Congress on board with it, we aren’t doing it right,” Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (D-Va.) said during a speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

"The American people deserve a public debate on all the options to dismantle ISIS, including their costs and consequences to our national security and domestic priorities," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

And Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOcasio-Cortez: Trump would 'never' say to her face some of the shots he takes at her on Twitter John Ratcliffe back under consideration by Trump for top intel job Trump says he wants 'no help from any country' in 2020 election MORE (D-Calif.) called for members of Congress to vote on authorizing the use of military force against ISIS when lawmakers return in November.

"This significant escalation of the military effort makes it all the more imperative for Congress to take up a new authorization to use force," he said in a statement.

"Congress should never have recessed with a war underway — we should take up this issue the moment we return to session," he said.