The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a resolution opposing the Trump administration’s move to withdraw US forces from Syria. The vote was 354-60 with four members voting present.
The resolution states that “an abrupt withdrawal of United States military personnel from certain parts of Northeast Syria is beneficial to adversaries of the United States government, including Syria, Iran, and Russia.”
It goes on to say that Congress “opposes the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria.”
The measure has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. In the House, it was sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas.
“Congress must speak out,” Engel said in a floor speech ahead of the vote,”this measure we’re considering today will send an unambiguous, bipartisan, hopefully bicameral rejection of Trump’s policy in Syria.”
Since it is a joint resolution, it could come up for a vote in the Senate after the House takes it up.
“I understand the administration’s legitimate concerns about engaging our US forces in long-term military operations,” McCaul said in a floor speech. “I too want to wind down our overseas conflicts and bring our troops home,” he said, but added, “We need a residual force in place. The consequences of this decision have already unfolded before our very eyes.”
The rebuke of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy comes as the troop withdrawal decision has sparked a bipartisan backlash, even as Democrats and Republicans remain bitterly divided over another issue currently before Congress: the House Democratic impeachment inquiry.
The President’s decision to pull US troops from northeastern Syria last week — a move that cleared a path for Turkey to attack US-allied Kurdish forces there — and his weekend order to withdraw all troops from the country received a mixed response Tuesday from Senate Republicans.
Many criticized the decision because they believe it opened the door to the resurgence of ISIS, though others defended it as the best way avoid US service members being caught in the crossfire between Turkish and Kurdish troops.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell led the chorus against the move, directly condemning Turkey for attacking the Kurds.
“I know I speak for many of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle in expressing my grave concern at the events that have unfolded in Syria in recent days,” he said in a floor speech.
McConnell and other bipartisan leaders are set to meet with Trump on Wednesday at the White House to discuss Syria ahead of a diplomatic mission by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who are leaving for to Turkey later Wednesday.
Congressional leaders are also weighing competing legislative measures, including some that would put sanctions on the Turks.
The House resolution calls on the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “to immediately cease unilateral military action in Northeast Syria.” It also calls on the US “to continue supporting Syrian Kurdish communities through humanitarian support, including to those displaced or otherwise affected by ongoing violence in Syria.”
It calls for the White House to “present a clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS” and for the US “to work to ensure that the Turkish military acts with restraint and respects existing agreements relating to Syria.”
Trump has pushed back on criticism and denied giving Turkey the “green light” to go into Syria.
“I didn’t give them the green light to invade,” Trump said on Wednesday during a joint news conference with the President of Italy at the White House.