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Michigan lawmakers largely back Trump airstrikes

By Melissa Nann Burke/Detroit News (AP) • Apr 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM

WASHINGTON — Michigan's congressional lawmakers largely support President Donald Trump's targeted airstrike after the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons, but several members want Trump to work with Congress on strategy if he plans on further U.S. military involvement in Syria's 7-year-old civil war.

Some made it clear they expect Trump to seek a congressional declaration of war on Syria if he wants to expand military action.

Michigan's senior Republican Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph said an "unmistakable message had to be delivered" after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's "heinous" chemical attack on his own citizens. Earlier this week, a chemical bomb attack on a rebel-held part of northern Syria killed at least 58 people and sickened hundreds.

"I believe these targeted, measured airstrikes were an appropriate response to the unfolding atrocities," Upton said about the Thursday night cruise missile attacks on Syrian military assets. "As we move forward, the administration must work with Congress and the international community to support these efforts."

Birmingham Republican Rep. Dave Trott said, "I look forward to working with President Trump and his administration as they begin to lay out clear, strategic policy goals for the region."

Rep. Sandy Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat, also said Trump's response, while appropriate, "must be a part of a broader strategy that should be developed in consultation with Congress."

Trump's sudden, "180-degree pivot" on Syria — the White House earlier this week said Assad could stay in power — "demonstrates plainly" the need to understand Trump's plans for future engagement, added Levin, who has been in Congress for 34 years.

Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stressed the country needs "clear and consistent leadership" from the Trump administration that includes diplomatic, economic and military coordination with allies in the Middle East and in the international community.

"President Trump should work with Congress to ensure the United States presents a united front to address what is an extremely complicated conflict in Syria," Peters said.

Others, including Democratic Reps. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township and Debbie Dingell of Dearborn and the libertarian-minded Justin Amash, a Republican, drew a stronger line, saying Trump must come to Congress for authorization to use military force.

"At this time, the military strike in Syria appears to be a limited and appropriate response to Assad's use of chemical weapons on his own people," Kildee said.

"The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war. ... The people I represent deserve a debate in Congress over the scope, size and strategy of any additional military action in the Middle East."

Amash of Cascade Township argued that Trump should have sought congressional approval even for Thursday's airstrikes.

"Airstrikes are an act of war. Atrocities in Syria cannot justify departure from Constitution, which vests in Congress power to commence war," Amash tweeted late Thursday.

"Framers of Constitution divided war powers to prevent abuse. Congress to declare war; president to conduct war and repel sudden attacks."

Amash, along with GOP Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton, signed a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama in 2013 after Assad used chemical weapons on his people, saying Obama should "seek and receive" congressional approval before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria.

The Democrats also urged the Trump administration to couple military intervention with more humanitarian assistance for victims of the Assad regime.

"The U.S. and the international community have a moral responsibility to seek a solution that ends the violence and helps the Syrian people escape this terror. To watch innocent men, women and children die is unacceptable," Dingell said.

"We must develop a comprehensive strategy, in partnership with our allies around the world, that ends the conflict in Syria in a way that restores stability, provides a safe haven to those fleeing the violence, and protects our brave men in women in uniform."

Most Republicans supported Trump without demanding particular steps by the White House.

"President Trump's decision to take decisive and targeted action against Syria is the leadership the United States must demonstrate," Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland said in a Facebook post.

Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, said Trump's decision to take action was appropriate, "and I fully support it."

"I look forward to engaging the administration and my colleagues in Congress on matters of national security," Bergman said in a statement.

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