McConnell Open to Syria AUMF if Trump Says He Needs It

Senate majority leader also says strike not a signal of more to come

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to his office after the Senate invoked the “nuclear option” on Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would be open to looking at an authorization for the use of military force in Syria if President Donald Trump feels that additional force needs such authorization.

“I’d be interested in taking a look at an AUMF if the president feels like he needs it,” the Kentucky Republican said at a press conference Friday. “If the president can think of some AUMF that he thinks will strengthen his hand, I will take a look at it.”

McConnell said the American military strike against Syria on Thursday night was done with proper legal authority. The administration launched missiles at a Syrian air base in response to a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians that is believed to have been carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the Trump administration to consult with Congress on a broader Syrian strategy. Others have said Congress needs to authorize any further military action in Syria.

Congress attempted to authorize the use of force following a chemical weapons attack in the country in 2013, but failed to reach a consensus on the authorizing language. 

McConnell said he and other lawmakers believed President Barack Obama’s proposed AUMF at that time was too restrictive on the president’s authority, and he felt the language amounted to micromanaging the executive.

The majority leader said Vice President Mike Pence informed him of the strike on Thursday night. He said he believed the objective of the strike was to respond to the use of chemical weapons, and that it was not a signal of more strikes to come.

“I think this strike was related to the use of chemical weapons early,” McConnell said. “So I don’t interpret this as a first step towards anything else in particular.”

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