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Area's congressional delegation praises Trump’s missile strike, with some reservations

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (left) with Mo. Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2009.
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio
Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

Democrats and Republicans who make up the St. Louis area’s congressional delegation say they support President Donald Trump’s decision to use missiles against a Syrian airbase after this week’s chemical weapons attack that killed dozens.


Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri told St. Louis radio station KTRS that the action shows “the president listens … learns” and is “willing to look at new circumstances in a new way.” Missouri U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner chided the Obama administration on Friday for allowing the Syrian crisis to become “the largest war in this century,” adding, “the United States can no longer sit idly by.”

But some, including Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, want Trump to come to Congress before doing anything else, as well as talking to the public before “any escalation beyond airstrikes or missile strikes.” Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, also a Democrat, said Friday she hoped it “wasn’t an impulsive reaction, but rather part of a broader plan and strategy.”

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a military veteran and Democrat, raised questions regarding what the strike means going forward. "We as a nation must begin an in-depth discussion on behalf of our men and women in uniform ... What was the legal justification for last night's strike?" she said in a statement Friday.

Dozens of missiles were launched Thursday evening at a Syrian airbase. The move by the Republican president drew condemnation from Syria's government and its allies, Russia and Iran, which said the move would complicate efforts to fight terrorism.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, a Republican from Illinois, said he backed Trump’s “decision to send a clear message to the Assad regime that inhumane acts like these are beyond the pale.”

Some reactions to Trump’s strike differ from those held in 2013, when President Barack Obama considered airstrikes against the Assad regime and sought a resolution from Congress, which failed.

Missouri Republican Reps. Ann Wagner and Blaine Luetkemeyer and Illinois GOP Rep. John Shimkus voted no, saying Obama hadn’t made a clear case for how it would help national security. U.S. Reps. Sam Graves, R-Mo.; Lacy Clay, D.-Mo.; and Rodney Davis, R-Ill., had indicated they were undecided. Duckworth, who was then a representative, was opposed to it.

In the Senate in 2013, Durbin voted in favor of the president's plan, while McCaskill was undecided and Blunt voted no.

Republican U.S. Rep. John Shimkus explained in a statement that he was skeptical of Obama's request and criticized Russia for not enforcing an agreement. "After another attack on innocent civilians, it is clear this did not happen, and a war crime was committed," he said. He also hopes "President Trump will seek legislative support for any possible future actions.” 

On Friday, Blunt also told KTRS that the strike “shows that the president surrounded himself with a good, strong, knowledgeable national security team. And they acted and acted quickly.”

Davis said in a statement that he hopes Syrian President Bashar Assad "hears this message loud and clear." Luetkemeyer said Friday that Trump took "decisive and appropriate action against the Assad regime last night," adding that the "use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and runs counter to American values and interests.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Duckworth was undecided in 2013. She opposed Obama's request.

Follow Erica on Twitter: @ehunzinger; Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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