“If there are going to be more actions,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, “I’m hoping steps will be taken” to involve Congress.
That request came despite Mr. Corker’s resistance to recent efforts to take up a new authorization for the use of military force to replace the ones approved after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Congressional authorization to use force in Syria eluded Mr. Obama. A measure to do so in 2013 passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but did not garner enough support in either party to get a full congressional vote — nor did any other authorizations to attack the Islamic State.
In the end, Mr. Obama used the skittishness of Congress to avoid action in Syria in 2013, a decision that would haunt the rest of his presidency. It particularly shaped the perceptions by congressional Republicans of his foreign policy fortitude.
“One of the lowest moments for me in the U.S. Senate was when those operations didn’t take place,” said Mr. Corker, seemingly still moved to rage by the memory. “I don’t think it was ever properly explained.”
Much has changed beyond control of the White House in the intervening years. After Mr. Obama decided not to attack Syria, he entered into an agreement with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin to help dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. At that time, American voters showed very limited interest in engagement in Syria.
While the program showed initial promise, it has become increasingly clear that Mr. Putin did not keep his end of the bargain. Russian military forces moved into western Syria.
Syrian forces, backed by Russian air power, have pummeled its citizens, including, most grimly, in the city of Aleppo. The Islamic State claimed a capital for its “caliphate” in eastern Syria, distressing governments in the surrounding region and beyond. The war set off a humanitarian crisis as refugees fled the region.
This week, the images of dead children after yet another chemical weapons attack captured the attention yet again of lawmakers who have long pressed for intervention in Syria. It also affected others who have been less vocal, including Mr. Trump, who repeatedly referred to the horrors of the attack in his public remarks about the strike.
But while the horrific images and reports of the last few years may have served to solidify widespread congressional support for the limited strike of this week, the fault lines in Congress on what to do next remain.
Noninterventionist types like Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, and a host of liberal Democrats in both chambers disliked that any move was made without congressional authorization. Others, likes Senators Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, and Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, have tried to drum up support once again for congressional authorization of future activities.
Calling the Trump administration strike “a clear signal that the United States will stand up for internationally accepted norms and rules against the use of chemical weapons,” Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that any future actions would require Congressional review.
But Mr. Cardin and others seemed unclear what, if anything, the administration might wish to do in the region. “We don’t know what he’s requesting,” Mr. Cardin said.
Others are focused on pushing sanctions against Russia for its continued support of Mr. Assad. “The Russians are not our friends,” Mr. McConnell said on Friday. “I think they’ve demonstrated that over and over and over again.”
The resolution that deeply divided the foreign relations committee in 2013 would have limited strikes against Syrian forces to a period of 60 days, with the possibility of 30 more days after consultation with Congress. It blocked the use of American ground troops.
Liberals found it too far-reaching, and others, like Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, too limiting.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, believed congressional authorizations for use of military force, known as an A.U.M.F., that were passed by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks broadly covered the executive branch for other strikes against rogue nations. Others simply don’t want to vote at all.
“There will likely be more calls for an A.U.M.F. for these strikes, since they were directly aimed at the Syrian regime,” said Nora Bensahel, a military policy analyst at American University’s School of International Service. “Then again, there will still be resistance in Congress to passing a new authorization, since there are dangers for going on the record for supporting military action — as many found out after they voted on the Iraq invasion of 2003.”
But what most members of Congress in both parties all seem to want is evidence the Trump administration has an actual strategy with Syria, and to have it explained.
“You’d love to have one yesterday,” said Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. “All the tactics should be driven by strategy.”
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