AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s congressional delegation called President Donald Trump’s late Thursday airstrikes a fair response to the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons in a civil war there, but three said Congress should be consulted before future military action.
The U.S. military launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base in a retaliatory strike, coming a day after a gas attack in a northwestern province killed more than 50 people. The U.S. has blamed it on forces aligned with President Bashar al-Assad.
Assad’s military has denied involvement and repeatedly said it doesn’t use poison gas on its people. Assad’s Russian allies have said their planes weren’t involved. But the U.S. believes the base struck by U.S. missiles was the source of the gas attack.
In written statements on Friday, all four members of Maine’s congressional delegation called the strikes proportional responses, but three argued for congressional involvement in future strikes.
Only Congress can declare war under the Constitution, but the president has wide authority to respond to crises. Former President Barack Obama justified military strikes in the Middle East under a 2001 congressional authorization aimed at fighting terrorism.
Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, is among a group of lawmakers who want a new authorization, saying the Republican president was flouting U.S. law. She wrote a letter Friday to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, asking him to introduce a use-of-force resolution.
In her statement, Pingree called the strikes a proportional response, but she lumped them in with the Republican president’s blocked executive order banning immigration from Syria and other Muslim nations and said he “must outline his strategy to Congress before taking further action.”
“We cannot resolve the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time with force alone,” she said. “We must also provide safety and asylum for Assad’s victims on our shores.”
Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said “the signal we sent to Assad is an important one.”
But he has long called for distinct congressional authorization for military actions in the Middle East, and he said Trump should consult Congress on “a comprehensive strategy and an authorization for the use of military force if further military action against the Assad regime is contemplated.”
Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, commended Trump and U.S. military personnel for a “decisive response to Assad’s appalling and indiscriminate attack against his own people.”
Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark said Trump “should consult Congress and he is already doing so,” referring to a briefing for senators from administration officials that Collins attended on Friday afternoon.
Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, said the “swift action was a proportional and appropriate response to the savage use of chemical weapons and violation of human rights” but said if Trump wants to take further action, he “must work and consult with Congress on a comprehensive plan for the crisis in the region.”