By Lindsay Wise and Natalie Andrews
Republican lawmakers responded to President Trump's decision to
pull U.S. troops out of Syria with phone calls to the White House,
fiery floor speeches and legislation -- crafted with Democrats --
instructing Mr. Trump to explain his plan for Syria to
The public rebellion in the GOP grew on the same day Turkey
agreed to a five-day suspension of its military offensive in Syria,
and the U.S. in turn pulled back on economic sanctions.
Congressional Republicans showed no sign of softening their
stance on the Syria policy, a day after the House passed a
resolution by a 354-60 margin condemning the troop withdrawal.
A number of them, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell (R., Ky.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) and Sen. Jim Inhofe
(R., Okla.), said they had spoken with Mr. Trump personally in
recent days to express their concerns about Syria.
Others, including Sens. Mitt Romney (R., Utah), Marco Rubio (R.,
Fla.) and Joni Ernst (R., Iowa), took to the Senate floor to
deliver speeches criticizing the president's Syria policy.
"Sometimes what is popular in the short term is not good for
America's national security in the long term, and that's my fear,"
Mr. Rubio said.
"The decision to abandon the Kurds violates one of our most
sacred duties," Mr. Romney said. "It strikes at American honor.
What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a bloodstain in the
annals of American history."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Thursday that her
emphasis on the broad Republican support for the resolution that
passed in the Democratic-controlled House and the lack of a plan
from the White House about what to do in the region led Mr. Trump
to have a meltdown at a meeting later that day.
The meeting was also the scene of a photo that went viral, in
which Mrs. Pelosi, the only woman in the room, is standing and
pointing at the president, who is seated with everyone else.
Democratic aides called the photo a gift that showed the speaker's
Asked about the photo on Thursday, Mrs. Pelosi first said, "I
think I was excusing myself from the room" because Democrats left
early, but then said, "At that moment, I was probably saying, 'All
roads lead to Putin.' "
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted the same image Wednesday with the
text, "Nervous Nancy's unhinged meltdown."
Mr. Trump is counting on party unity against Democratic efforts
to impeach him, and the vast majority of congressional Republicans
still backed the president against allegations that he pressured
Ukraine to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden,
the president's political rival. Some have gone so far as to say
that it was Mr. Trump's duty to do so, and even Republicans who
didn't initially support the president have come to back him.
On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), a Trump ally,
pointedly didn't criticize Mrs. Pelosi's behavior, and instead
praised her for working with Republicans on the bipartisan House
"I wasn't in the meeting," Mr. Graham said. "I could care less
about the personalities. I do care about policy, and I want to
applaud the speaker of the House for bringing up the resolution and
being willing to work with the president."
Sen. Graham led a bipartisan group of senators who introduced
legislation Thursday that would impose harsh sanctions on Turkey
over its offensive in Syria. Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Mr.
Graham, said the sponsors plan to push ahead regardless of the news
of suspension of military activity.
The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.),
includes language declaring that it is the "sense of Congress" that
President Trump's decision to pull back troops "has grave
consequences" for national security and for America's allies.
It also calls on the president to withdraw his invitation to
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit the White House
next month and to "seek unity" with European and other partners to
condemn Turkey's offensive.
Mr. McConnell has yet to say whether he will bring the measure
to the floor for a vote, but he said Thursday he would like to see
the Senate pass an even stronger version of the House resolution
that passed Wednesday.
Mr. Graham urged Mr. McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck
Schumer to allow the Senate to vote on the House-approved
Mr. Schumer tried to pass that resolution on the Senate floor
through unanimous consent Thursday, but Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.)
"I talked to my friend from Kentucky, he said the Kurds are
better off with the Syrians. Well, the Kurds sure don't think so,"
Mr. Schumer said.
Mr. Graham said later Thursday that he spoke with President
Trump about the apparent suspension of operations by Turkey in
Syria, announced by Vice President Mike Pence shortly after the
senators' bill was introduced, and said he stands ready to work
with Mr. Trump to build on the deal.
"Sounds like we may have made real progress regarding a
cease-fire and hopefully sustainable solutions to prevent the
reemergence of ISIS, the abandonment of our ally, the Kurds, and
other strategic interests of the United States, like the
containment of Iran," Mr. Graham said.
Also on Thursday, Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho), chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Bob Menendez (D.,
N.J.), the panel's top Democrat, said they plan to introduce their
own legislation that will require the Trump administration to
produce a strategy to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State in
Syria and Iraq.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate's Select
Committee on Intelligence, separately introduced the Syrian Allies
Protection Act, a bill that would make U.S. visas available to
Syrian Kurds who worked with U.S. military forces in Syria.
Ms. Ernst on Thursday introduced a resolution calling on the
Defense Department and State Department to provide a plan to
Congress within 30 days outlining the U.S. plan to deal with
Islamic State. Mr. Rubio is co-sponsoring the resolution, according
to a GOP aide.
Despite the Republican rancor, Mr. Trump's support within his
party looked solid. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R., Wa.) didn't
vote for Mr. Trump in 2016 and opposed GOP efforts to repeal the
Affordable Care Act. But she said Thursday that she would still
likely support him, largely because of the state of the economy,
and dismissed efforts to impeach him as a "goat rodeo."
Write to Lindsay Wise at firstname.lastname@example.org and Natalie
Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 17, 2019 20:32 ET (00:32 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.