A senior Republican on the House Homeland Security and Intelligence committees on Wednesday defended President Obama’s legal right to attack Syria without congressional approval, saying presidents throughout history have done so.

But Rep. Peter King of New York stopped short of calling for such a move and rebuked Obama’s handing of Syrian crisis.

“As commander in chief he has the right to begin military actions,” King told Fox News, citing as an example President Reagan’s order to invade Grenada in 1983. “Now, if he’s smart, he would certainly consult with the House and Senate leaders, with the top people on the Intelligence Committee, the Armed Services Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee. But he doesn’t have to.

“I believe strongly the president has the constitutional right to carry this out.”

King said he has “real problems” with Obama’s handling of the conflict in Syria, where the government reportedly has used chemical weapons on its own people.

“I’m really not defending his policy. I’m saying he has the right to carry out the attack,” he said. “Attacks have to be carried out.”

If the president decides to use military force against Syria, King says it must be a “sustained cruise missile attack” and that Obama “has to know what the end game is.”

“What do you want from all this? Is it just to knock out a few command and control systems? Or is it to get us to the negotiating table?” he said. “It can’t be just a one- or two- or three-day feel-good thing so he can soothe his conscience.”

King also cautioned against arming opposition forces fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime — a move pushed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — saying there is a “radical Islamist element which may be close to dominating those rebel forces.”

“I don’t want to have Assad knocked out and have al Queda come in,” he said.