Some members of Tennessee’s mostly Republican congressional delegation are showing guarded support for a U.S. military action that consisted of dropping nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles Thursday night, on what was reportedly a Syrian airfield.
The Trump Administration says the strike was a response to this week's chemical weapons attack in Syria, which is presumed to have been perpetrated by the Syrian government, though that has not been officially confirmed.
Tennessee's two U.S. senators applauded President Trump for taking swift action after the incident. Senator Bob Corker has been calling for military action for a number of years, because of chemical weapons. But the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee now wants the administration “to clearly communicate its full strategy to the American people" and "engage with Congress.”
Senator Lamar Alexander agrees, and in a written release called for following the highest law of the land for any future operations. “Under our Constitution, the president should seek authorization from Congress for any further military action in Syria," Alexander says.
Even lawmakers not usually supportive of this administration are cautiously backing the strike. Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of Nashville says he hopes the attack will stop Syrian and Russian atrocities. But, he cautions, “This is the Middle East. It is too early to say if these 59 Tomahawk missiles will further U.S. interests or not."
Congressman John Duncan said that while he doesn't want to see the US "entangled in another ground war" in the region, he thinks the US action was a “measured” and “appropriate” response.
Other members of the House of Representatives, including Congressmen Diane Black, David Kustoff and Chuck Fleischmann, were more categorical in their support.
Full statements from Tennessee's Congressional delegation:
Senator Lamar Alexander (R), official statement released via Twitter:
"The limited missile strike launched Thursday night against the air base in Syria was an appropriate immediate response to President Assad's use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, including Syrian children. Under our Constitution, the president should seek authorization from Congress for any further military action in Syria so that we can evaluate the long-term consequences of his plans and determine whether additional engagement would be in the vital national security interest of the United States."
Senator Bob Corker (R), official statement released to the press:
“The U.S. and world community stood by as Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad brutally tortured and murdered more than 500,000 of his own people, and I applaud President Trump for taking decisive action following the latest chemical weapons attack,” said Corker. “It is critical that Assad knows he will no longer enjoy impunity for his horrific crimes against his own citizens, and this proportional step was appropriate. As we move forward, it will be important for the administration to engage with Congress and clearly communicate its full strategy to the American people."
Tweet from Congressman Diane Black (R-Gallatin):
"Thank you @POTUS for taking decisive action against #Assad regime. We must stand up to bullies with strength & unity. Prayers for men & women who answered call of duty 2night & for Syrian ppl suffering under this murderous tyrant. #Peace through #Strength."
Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood), official statement released to WPLN:
“Assad is a war criminal who has gassed and murdered thousands of his citizens. It is appropriate that the President executed this limited and targeted strike on the Shayrat Airfield in order to protect the Syrian people and our allies in the area.”
Congressman Jim Cooper (D-Nashville):
"This is President Trump's first visible military attack after the failed mission in Yemen. This attack minimized immediate danger to U.S. troops and, I hope, will stop Syria and Russia from their atrocities. But this is the Middle East. It is too early to say if these 59 Tomahawk missiles will further U.S. interests or not."
Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg) retweeted the statement from the House Armed Services Committee supporting the strikes:
"Support Presidents [sic] decision to take military action in Syria [sic] Hope this action will help deter future atrocities by Assad regime"
Congressman John. J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Knoxville), official statement released to the press:
“While I do not think we should become entangled in another ground war in the Middle-East, this measured response was appropriate to send the message that the United States will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons to murder innocent civilians, especially children. I do not think the President had much of a choice after we saw photos of children brutally killed by chemical weapons. I am confident that President Trump will not allow us to become bogged down in a multi-year, trillion dollar war in the Middle-East.”
Congressman Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), official statement released via Twitter:
"For some time I have been deeply concerned about the horrific crimes Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has committed against his own people. I completely support President Donald J. Trump's crucial and necessary action to strike the Syrian airbase. The limited missile strike showed America will not tolerate such inhumane actions."
Congressman David Kustoff (R-Germantown), official statement released via Facebook:
"For far too long, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has seen no consequences for deliberate, horrendous crimes against his own people. Tonight, President Trump took bold and necessary action to counter Assad's brutality, sending a clear message that the United States will no longer allow these atrocities. This is a sign of strength from the Trump Administration and a reminder that America will not stand by while innocent lives are taken."
Congressman Phil Roe (R-Kingsport), official statement released to the press:
“Earlier this week, a horrific chemical attack conducted by the Assad regime in a rebel-held area of Syria took the lives of dozens of innocent men, women and children. This treachery should not go unpunished, and it did not thanks to President Trump's leadership and swift and appropriate action. Last night, the United States held Assad accountable and responded with tactical strikes making a clear statement that his continued brutality against innocent civilians will not be tolerated. I applaud President Trump for his expedient action, and I thank the brave men and women of our armed forces who carried out this mission."
WPLN reached out to the office of Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) for a statement but has not yet received a reply.