U.S. Senator Bill Nelson

Serving Florida

Sen. Bill Nelson supports Syria strike but said President needs to talk to Congress

By James Call, Tallahassee Democrat
Apr 14, 2018
Sen Bill Nelson supported the U.S. led missile strike targeting Syria’s chemical weapons facilities overnight Saturday.
 
But he said President Donald Trump let “the cat out of the bag,” with a Wednesday tweet. And that limited the damage to Syria’s chemical production facilities.
 
The U.S., Great Britain and France launched joint airstrikes in Syria in response to the suspected chemical attack on civilians by President Bashar Assad’s government. That attack on April 7 killed at least 40 civilians, including children.
 
The allies targeted research and military facilities, but Nelson, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Syrians had three days of warnings and were prepared. 
 
“They moved equipment, materials, and personnel out. They knew we were coming after their chemical production,” said Nelson in Tallahassee Saturday. “I want us to stop President Assad from using chemical weapons and we need to hold him accountable for chemical weapons . . . (but) I think it is going to have limited effect.”
 
The coalition fired 76 missiles into a research center outside of Damascus. The U.S. military said Saturday the mission “completely destroyed” storage facilities and set back Syria’s chemical weapons’ capabilities for years.
 
Syria and its allies, Russian and Iran, have denied that Assad’s government used chemical weapons against rebels. Russia accused the U.K. of staging the attack.
 
Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, joined Nelson for a weekend of campaigning in Florida. While their flight to West Palm Beach was prepared, the two mingled with a gaggle of Florida A&M and Florida State university students and discussed the news of the day with reporters.
 
Booker, making clear he had seen just initial reports, questioned how the president is handling the growing use of chemical warfare. In addition to Syria, both Russia and North Korea are suspected of using chemical weapons.
 
“One of the most horrific, horrible acts and there is not going to be any consequences,” said Booker, saying the President's use of Twitter undermined a military mission.  “This is a president that doesn’t talk softly and carry a big stick. Sounds like he does the exact opposite of that."
 
“He literally tweets out that we are going to attack. We see Putin growing more emboldened by the lack of action by the United States of America."
 
Saturday, at the U.N., Russia called on the world to condemn the United States. Russian officials called the strike an act of aggression against a sovereign state. Both Nelson and Booker dismissed criticism and reports from Moscow and Damascus.
 
But they said Trump should have consulted Congress before acting instead of relying on an authorization to use military force dating back to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
 
“Syria is a whole different array and we ought to have Congress weigh in. There ought to be debate,” said Nelson. “But the majority leader, Sen. McConnell, is afraid to bring it to the floor of the Senate.”