7 people to watch in the Syria debate

Story highlights

  • The voices to watch in the Congressional debate on Syria
  • Tim Kaine, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio lead the list

(CNN)President Trump's decision to bomb a Syrian airbase is already triggering a heated debate within the halls of Congress about whether it was the right strategic decision and whether he should seek congressional authorization for any further military action.

While all 535 members of Congress believe their voice is the one that needs to be heard, some voices are, well, more important and interesting. Here's my list of the seven members -- four Senators, three House members -- to keep an eye on as Congress tries to wrap its arms around the latest developments in Syria.

SENATE

    Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

    Sen. Lindsey Graham addresses constituents during a town hall meeting in March in South Carolina.
    Graham is among the most hawkish members of the Senate and applauded Trump for his decision to strike back at Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. "Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action," Graham said in a joint statement with fellow Republican and Arizona Sen. John McCain." For that, he deserves the support of the American people."
    Graham, along with McCain, will be the leading voices within the GOP to go further than simply this one tactical strike. Graham undoubtedly feels somewhat vindicated after urging action again Syria for the bulk of Barack Obama's presidency. Graham and Trump have had an contentious relationship since the billionaire began running for office. But might their interests align now?

    Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

    Kaine: No legal justification for Syria strike
    Kaine: No legal justification for Syria strike

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    The 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee is among the most aggressive believers in the need for presidents to seek congressional authorization for virtually any military operation. Kaine argued that then President Obama should have sought a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to conduct military operations against ISIS.
    On the Syria strike, Kaine was similarly outspoken. "There is no legal justification for this," Kaine said on CNN's "New Day" Friday morning. "He should not have done this without coming to Congress."
    Expect Kaine to hold Trump's feet to the fire on congressional authorization.

    Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

    Sen. Rand Paul during a news conference on Capitol Hill in March.
    If Kaine is the leading proponent of a new AUMF for Democrats, than Paul is his counterpart on the Republican side. In an op-ed for Fox News Channel on Friday, Paul wrote:
    "Make no mistake, no matter who is president or what their party is, it is my firm belief that the president needs congressional authorization for military action, as required by the Constitution. I call on this president to come to Congress for a proper debate over our role in Syria, just as I did in 2013 when President Obama contemplated acting in Syria."
    Paul, during his abbreviated run for president in 2016, was a lone voice advocating for reconsidering the role of America as the world's policeman. In one of the many debate during the Republican primary campaign, Paul offered this: "We get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism. And yet they're the problem, because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos."
    Paul and Trump have experienced a rapprochement of sorts; the two men played golf and talked healthcare last weekend. Does that comity hold?

    Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

    Rubio: Syria strike was legal and right move
    Rubio: Syria strike was legal and right move

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    Rubio: Syria strike was legal and right move 01:34
    Turn on a television over the last 16 hours and you are likely to see Rubio talking about Syria. The Florida Senator took to Twitter Thursday night to praise Trump for striking against Syria "The days of committing war crimes with impunity are over," he said via Twitter Friday.
    Rubio has long been in favor of ousting Assad although he made clear Friday he believes that movement needs to come from inside Syria rather than from foreign fighters. He is also someone seen as a likely national candidate for Republicans down the line; how he fares in this debate, therefore, will be closely scrutinized by both sides.

    House

    Justin Amash (R-Mich.)

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    Amash, like Paul in the Senate, is a huge believer in the need for presidents to seek congressional approval before launching any sort of military strike. In a tweet Thursday night, he described the bombing of the Syrian airbase as an "act of war."
    Amash has shown a willingness to take on the White House despite being a Republican. He was opposed to the proposed healthcare legislation, for example. That earned the enmity of Dan Scavino Jr., the president's head of social media, who urged that some Republican candidate primary Amash in 2018.

    Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)

    Rep. Gabbard met Assad during Syria visit and talked about it on CNN in January.
    Rep. Gabbard met Assad during Syria visit and talked about it on CNN in January.

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      Rep. Gabbard met Assad during Syria visit and talked about it on CNN in January.

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    Rep. Gabbard met Assad during Syria visit and talked about it on CNN in January. 02:15
    Gabbard is a major outlier in Congress when it comes to Syria. She took a highly criticized trip to Syria where she met with Assad. She was forced to personally pay for the trip after ethics experts questioned the group who had financed it.
    Prior to this latest chemical attack, Gabbard had been in favor of keeping Assad in power as a sort of a stabilizing force. "If Assad is removed and overthrown, ISIS, al Qaeda, Al Nusra, these Islamic extremist groups will walk straight in and take over all of Syria," she told CNN's Chris Cuomo in 2016.
    In the wake of the attack, Gabbard was apoplectic. "It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government," she said in a statement.

    Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)

    Lawmaker: 'War doesn't get any easier'
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    Moulton's personal story -- he served four tours in Iraq -- makes him a compelling voice in this debate. In an appearance on CNN Friday, Moulton offered a nuanced view, free of predictable partisanship.
    "What the president did was an important first step to send a message that using chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction is not acceptable, Moulton said. "We will not stand by when it happens. But [Trump's] got to explain the strategy to the American people and he's got to come to Congress and convince us to support it in a bipartisan way."