McCain: Congress should pass new military authorization

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements MORE (R-Ariz.) on Thursday called on Congress to pass a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), though argued that President Trump has the authority to carry out potential strikes in Syria.

"We need an Authorization for Use of Military Force. We got to update it, we got to make it realistic and we got to have Congress, the representatives of the American people, involved in some of these decisions," McCain said on MSNBC's "MTP Daily."

"I am going to work with Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE [D-Va.] and others to try to come up with one," he said.

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Still, McCain maintained that Trump does not need to ask for the lawmakers' approval if he wants to strike Syria following the deadly chemical attack this week believed to have been carried out by the Assad regime.

"I don't think he needs congressional approval," McCain said, citing the Reagan administration's 1986 operation against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.

McCain voiced a similar view earlier on Thursday when asked if the president is obligated to get congressional authorization for military action in Syria.

"No more than Ronald Reagan was after the Berlin bombing when he struck Gaddafi," McCain told reporters. "He has no more requirement than Ronald Reagan did."

When asked again if he thinks Trump has the authority to strike Syria, McCain replied, "I do. Certainly no one complained when Ronald Reagan did it."

The U.S. has largely relied on the AUMF passed in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to justify military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as the 2002 AUMF authorizing the Iraq War.

McCain's comments come as the White House edges closer toward a military response to the latest chemical attacks in Syria.

Trump blamed the deadly attack on Syrian President Bashar Assad and said that some form of action is necessary in Syria.

“He’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so I guess something should happen,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One.

As a private citizen, however, Trump criticized then-President Obama for considering a military operation in Syria and had urged the U.S. leader to seek congressional approval for the operation.

"What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict?" Trump tweeted in 2013. "Obama needs Congressional approval." 

–Rebecca Kheel contributed

Updated: 8:25 p.m.