US lawmakers urge action on Syria after gas attack
WASHINGTON D.C. - US lawmakers expressed disgust Tuesday over the suspected gas attack in Syria that killed dozens, with some urging President Donald Trump to challenge the regime in Damascus more forcefully.
The White House and US congressional leaders had yet to react to the alleged attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun, which if confirmed would be the latest in a series of chemical attacks in recent years blamed on the forces of strongman President Bashar al-Assad as well as the Islamic State.
But members of Congress spoke out, including House Republican Adam Kinzinger, who urged action be taken.
"Removing #Assad from power IS and MUST be a priority," he said on Twitter.
Senator John McCain, a Republican national security hawk who relentlessly criticized president Barack Obama for his Syria policy, attacked Trump's handling of the ongoing crisis in the war-ravaged nation.
He expressed exasperation about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who raised eyebrows last week when he said Assad's fate "will be decided by the Syrian people."
It was "one of the more incredible statements I've ever heard," McCain told CNN, warning that Assad and his Russian allies would be "encouraged" by Tillerson's words.
"It is another disgraceful chapter in American history and it was predictable," said McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and called on Obama and now Trump to back Syrian rebels more aggressively.
McCain has voiced concern that Trump's White House has yet to develop a cohesive foreign policy, but he has expressed confidence in the president's national security team.
Eliot Engel, top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was "horrified" by the Syria attack but also pointed the finger at Trump's administration.
"Sadly, the Assad regime is likely feeling empowered right now," he said, noting Tillerson's remarks.
Senator John Kennedy, a freshman Republican, said "Assad is testing President Trump," and Washington needs to deliver "an appropriate response."
"We can't just do nothing," he told CNN. "We can't let Assad cross this line without having consequences."