Biden still hasn’t briefed top senators on Syria airstrike

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The Biden administration has still not briefed senators directly on last week’s airstrike of a facility in Syria allegedly used by an Iran-allied militia group, as Democratic lawmakers continue to express anger over the move.

Administration officials instead offered a briefing for Senate aides Tuesday, which Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Politico he attended to get some semblance of justification for the strike from Biden’s team.

The Connecticut senator, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the outlet that he was not impressed with what he learned.

“I still need to be convinced that any president has the authorization required to take a retaliatory strike, especially outside of Iraq,” Murphy said, noting that, while outdated, previous authorizations still permit the use of force in Iraq.

“I didn’t hear anything today that convinced me that there was justification that I’d apply to any administration,” he continued.

Aides who attended the briefing decried what information they were given in a separate readout obtained by the outlet, writing that the administration officials provided “unsatisfactory” answers and that there was “not a whole lot of substance.”

A source familiar with the matter at the National Security Council, which is responsible for such briefings, told The Post that briefings were offered to lawmakers, but that leadership on Capitol Hill instead asked for just staff-level presentations to be made.

Democratic lawmakers including Sen. Chris Murphy are unsatisfied with the Biden administration's answers surrounding the bombing.
Democratic lawmakers including Sen. Chris Murphy are unsatisfied with the Biden administration’s answers surrounding the bombing.
REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Reached for comment by The Post, NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne said, “We continue to be happy to brief on this issue at both the member and the staff level as requested.”

Concerns about transparency did not solely come from Murphy.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said this week that he would move to reintroduce his war powers resolution, which passed in the last Congress but was vetoed by then-President Donald Trump.

The resolution curbs the commander-in-chief’s ability to declare war or take military action without congressional approval.

Kaine, who has long supported Congress having more say in curtailing a president’s ability to wage war, expressed fury after Biden authorized last week’s airstrike without notifying Congress or asking for approval.

US airstrikes ordered by President Biden destroyed buildings at the Iraq-Syria border crossing.
US airstrikes ordered by President Biden destroyed buildings at the Iraq-Syria border crossing.
EPA

“The American people deserve to hear the Administration’s rationale for these strikes and its legal justification for acting without coming to Congress,” he said in a statement at the time.

“Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances. Congress must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously,” he added.

Asked about bringing back his resolution this week, the 2016 vice presidential nominee reiterated that “I just strongly believe — and this goes back to the drafting of the Constitution and the earliest understandings of it — is that if a president is defending against an ongoing attack or imminent attack, the president does have some unilateral power and that’s good.

A worker cleans shattered glass outside a damaged shop following a rocket attack
The Biden administration has still not briefed senators directly on last week’s airstrike of a facility in Syria allegedly used by an Iran-allied militia group.
SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images

“But the idea of going on offense against groups, that’s traditionally where you ought to be coming to Congress.”

Kaine added that was “not notified at all” about the Syria strike, nor were “many of the people” in Congress who should have been.

It appears Kaine’s resolution could have some Democratic support in the House of Representatives, where anger is also palpable among lawmakers.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) slammed the strike during an interview with The Hill Tuesday, saying that it “clearly” violated US and international law.

“I’m sure there would have been more outrage, because this is not a close case,” Khanna said when asked if reaction to the strike would have been more severe if it was ordered by former President Trump.

“My view is — and many people in the Democratic Party have said this — that we need to be extricating out of these endless wars and this conflict,” he said. “I don’t see how striking in Syria, Iranian targets achieves that objective.”

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