WASHINGTON — Sen. Joni Ernst on Sunday praised the U.S.-led strikes on Syria this weekend, but insisted that the Trump administration should go to Congress before escalating American military action in the country.
“I think it was important that we destroy that infrastructure that Bashar al-Assad had used to deliver chemical weapons against his own people, so I am glad that we've taken this step,” the Iowa Republican said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”
But Ernst said that it was important for Congress to pass a new authorization for use of military force and that discussion between the two branches should preclude any additional involvement.
“I am uncomfortable going forward if he wishes to commit ground troops in the area,” said Ernst, who served in the Middle East during the Iraq War as part of the Army National Guard, and now sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Currently we do have an effort to fight against ISIS in the region, and that is our main focus. This is secondary to that. But certainly if he wishes to go any further he does need to work with Congress.”
President Donald Trump announced a series of airstrikes against Syria on Friday in partnership with France and the United Kingdom. The Pentagon said the strikes were aimed at a research and development center, a storage facility and a chemical weapons bunker in different locations across the country.
The last time the Assad regime was suspected of using chemical weapons and the Trump administration decided to launch strikes on a Syrian airfield in response, Ernst also called for congressional input if U.S. involvement advanced.
“Going forward, I do believe that we need notification coming to Congress,” she said on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” in April 2017. “If he wishes to do anything further, he does need to bring that specific plan with his reasoning to Congress before we move forward.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan, also on Sunday's "Meet the Press," called this weekend's Syria strikes the "exactly right" response from the Trump administration and said they will set back the Syrian regime, but the action still "doesn’t mean the Syrians cannot recreate the chemical weapons to use again.”
The strikes, he said, send a clear, political signal to Damascus and Moscow that there will be costs associated with the use of chemical weapons, and although this strike may have been "tactical and surgical," the "next one may not be.”
Ernst is just one of a number of Republican senators who are sounding off on the administration’s Syria strategy.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement, "The president needs to lay out our goals, not just with regard to ISIS, but also the ongoing conflict in Syria and malign Russian and Iranian influence in the region."
While Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado said in a statement that he felt "these latest actions need to be part of a comprehensive strategy that secures lasting peace in Syria."