- The Washington Times
Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Lawmakers streamed back to Washington on Tuesday determined to fight President Trump’s troop pullout from Syria, but they struggled to figure out exactly what they can do about it.

Democratic leaders announced a bipartisan resolution condemning Mr. Trump and urging him to reverse course, but they acknowledged that was largely symbolic. They said they are intent on finding something with more teeth.


Republican leaders were noncommittal on the resolution. They said they want to hear more from the Trump administration but made clear that they are not happy with the way the president’s moves have played out.

“This violence needs to end,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. He called the escalating clash “completely unacceptable.”

Congress was on a two-week recess on Oct. 6 when the president announced a snap withdrawal of the several dozen U.S. troops stationed in Syria, where they were helping Kurdish forces fight Islamic State rebels and holding Islamic State captives.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw Mr. Trump’s move as a green light to invade northern Syria and battle the Kurds, whom he considers enemies. The U.S. considers both sides to be allies, putting Mr. Trump in a tricky spot, worsened by reports that Islamic State fighters have staged jailbreaks and Russia and Iran see opportunities to make their own gains.

Mr. Trump says he feels betrayed by Mr. Erdogan’s moves and said U.S. troops will remain in the Middle East to keep a lid on the situation.

The president said Thursday he is sending Vice President Mike Pence to Turkey for emergency negotiations.

But Mr. Trump is also intent on fending off Congress‘ desire to get more involved.

He imposed sanctions this week on Turkey and threatened more should Mr. Erdogan not cease and desist.

“They ship a lot of steel to the United States. They make a lot of money shipping steel. They won’t be making so much money,” he said Tuesday at the White House.

Members of Congress, many of whom used to be fans of sanctions over military action, said the president’s sanctions won’t cut it this time.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Congress needs to vote this week to rebuke Mr. Trump and demand a reversal of his policy.

He and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, revealed a bipartisan resolution faulting Mr. Trump.

Mr. Schumer said it will be a major test for Republicans.

“They will have far more success in getting the president to reverse course and change his views,” Mr. Schumer said. “They know it’s dangerous. Are they still going to be afraid to criticize President Trump?”

The resolution is being sponsored by Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat; Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican; Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat; and Todd Young, Indiana Republican.

“I think we clearly need to send a message as a country that what the Turks have done is unacceptable,” Mr. Young said. “At the same time, that needs to be balanced against any dynamic that might be created and further push the Turks to align with other countries.”

One prominent name was not listed as a sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has been a close ally of Mr. Trump’s on a number of fights but has been critical of the president for withdrawing the troops.

He said he is working with Mrs. Pelosi on a sanctions bill, though she said Tuesday that his language is “a little weak.”

Mr. Graham said he blames Turkey, not Mr. Trump, for what went wrong. Mr. Graham told Fox News that Mr. Erdogan lied to him two weeks ago about his intentions in the region.

Mr. Graham said far from a green light, Mr. Trump cautioned Mr. Erdogan to be restrained in whatever actions he would take in Syria.

He said he was on a phone call with Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan on Monday and the Turkish leader promised to keep his forces from Kobani, an area held by the Kurds, to prevent an escalation.

“More to follow,” Mr. Graham told reporters.

It’s not clear how many of his fellow Republicans are ready to back him.

Some took a wait-and-see approach, while others said they are certain they can’t support the sanctions.

“Lindsey Graham’s been wrong about almost every foreign policy decision of the last two decades,” Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, said in an interview on CNN.

He said if Congress wants to have U.S. troops get involved, then it should vote to declare war and make the case to the public that it is in the national interest.

There were no takers for that proposal on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this report.


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