Syria strike divides NM House delegation

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce on Monday described the American missile strike against Syria as part of a broader strategy by the Trump administration to address instability throughout the world.

His Democratic colleagues from New Mexico, meanwhile, said Trump must come back to Congress quickly with a plan to address Syria in the long term and to secure authorization for military action.

All three members of New Mexico’s delegation to the U.S. House – Republican Pearce, and Democrats Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján – participated Monday in an hourlong panel discussion sponsored by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

Trump’s action, Pearce said, was surely noticed by the president of China, an ally of North Korea, another potential trouble spot.

The newly elected president is “exceptional about knowing how to raise the pressure” in negotiations, Pearce said.

“You leave a vacuum when you don’t lead with strength and courage.”

Lujan Grisham and Luján, meanwhile, questioned Trump’s legal authority to decide alone on military action.

Luján, in fact, said Republican leaders in the U.S. House and Senate – both controlled by the GOP – should call Congress back to debate military action in Syria.

“The country deserves that,” he said. “Our Constitution demands that.”

Lujan Grisham said she expects Trump to come to Congress with a specific plan for Syria – where the U.S. last week struck an air base, a response, the Trump administration said, to Syria using poison gas on its own people.

“It’s not a unilateral decision,” Lujan Grisham said.

The luncheon took place at the Sheraton Albuquerque Airport Hotel. About 175 business and community leaders attended.

Lujan Grisham and Pearce, both potential candidates for governor next year, sat side by side on the stage. Kent Walz, senior editor of the Journal, moderated the discussion.

“I didn’t know if I’d be invited because I’m not running for governor,” Luján joked.

Lujan Grisham has announced her campaign to succeed Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Pearce said last year that he would consider running.

Pearce and Lujan Grisham each spoke about a desire for bipartisan solutions to national and state problems. They were cordial, and neither singled the other out for harsh criticism.

On immigration, Lujan Grisham said the Trump administration had conducted raids that have sparked intense fear, and harmed New Mexico businesses and communities. She called the raids “reckless and irresponsible.”

Pearce, by contrast, said it’s critical to enforce the law against illegal border crossings. Immigration agents are simply “going around and collecting the criminals,” he said.

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