The United States launched a major military strike against Syria on Thursday night.
The attack was authorized by Donald Trump.
It was not authorized by Congress, as required by the US Constitution.
The president, in a brief statement, indicated that the missile assault on a Syrian government air base was initiated in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians earlier in the week. “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Trump said from Mar-a-Lago in Florida. The president said that: “It is in this vital national-security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
The reference to a “vital national-security interest” was an attempt to justify the presidential action.
But Congresswoman Barbara Lee argued Thursday night that “this is an act of war. Congress needs to come back into session and hold a debate. Anything less is an abdication of our responsibility.”
Lee condemned the deployment of chemical weapons as “barbaric and heinous war crimes.” But the congresswoman, who has for years objected to presidential overreach in matters of war and peace, argued Thursday night that Trump must seek a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force. “I was the lone vote against [the] 2001 AUMF,” the California Democrat explained, referencing the congressional resolution that authorized President George W. Bush to respond to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That authorization has been repeatedly used to justify military actions since 2001.
After more than 15 years, Lee said, the “Syria strikes are far beyond the scope of this  war authorization.” She urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to organize a new congressional vote.
Lee was not alone in making the case that Trump—who ran in 2016 as an “America First” candidate who was skeptical about military adventurism and who in the past argued that congressional authorization was required for any assault on Syria—acted without adequate authorization.