WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday dealt a stinging bipartisan rebuke to President Trump for his decision to withdraw American forces just inside Syria’s border, registering overwhelming opposition in Congress to a move that has thrown the region into bloody chaos and unraveled Middle East policy.
In a rare break with a president they are normally unwilling to criticize, two-thirds of House Republicans, including all of the party’s elected leaders, joined Democrats in approving a resolution that opposed Mr. Trump’s acquiescence to the Turkish assault against the Kurds, who have been crucial American allies in the fight against the Islamic State. The measure passed, 354 to 60, in the most significant bipartisan repudiation of Mr. Trump since he took office.
It enraged the president, who lashed out at Democratic congressional leaders at the White House shortly afterward at a meeting called to discuss the incursion, which devolved into a bitter confrontation in which he hurled insults at Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she pointedly mentioned the devastating vote tally.
“He was shaken up by it,” Ms. Pelosi said of the resounding support, including by Republicans, for the resolution.
The vote unfolded only hours before Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were to travel to Ankara, Turkey, to call for a cease-fire in a battle the president appears to have greenlit.
“At President Trump’s hands, American leadership has been laid low, and American foreign policy has become nothing more than a tool to advance his own interests,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who introduced the measure. “Today we make clear that the Congress is a coequal branch of government and we want nothing to do with this disastrous policy.”
The measure, which was largely symbolic, upbraided the withdrawal as “beneficial to adversaries of the United States government” including Russia, Syria and Iran, and called on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to immediately end unilateral military action in northern Syria. A companion measure in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, was introduced on Tuesday.
Read Trump’s Letter to Turkey’s President
Trump said he’d written the “very powerful” letter to warn the Turkish leader.
Even as Mr. Trump defended his decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria, telling reporters at the White House that the battle there had “nothing to do with us,” Republicans and Democrats lined up on the House floor to denounce his action.
“Because of this decision and inaction that led up to this decision, we have let our friends down, we have hurt our national security and we have ceded leadership in the region to Russia and Iran,” said Representative Will Hurd, Republican of Texas and a former C.I.A. officer who is retiring. “I hope we can change our course, but I fear it may be too late.”
The resolution drew support from 129 Republicans including all three of the party’s House leaders, while 60 opposed it and three — Representatives Chip Roy of Texas, Jody B. Hice of Georgia and Bob Gibbs of Ohio — voted present. Representative Justin Amash, independent of Michigan, also voted present.
The resolution was not the first bipartisan rebuke by Congress of Mr. Trump’s mercurial approach to foreign policy. The president’s allies on Capitol Hill have shown they are most comfortable criticizing him on matters of international affairs, and have previously joined Democrats to denounce his administration’s unflagging support of Saudi Arabia after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. And they declared their disapproval this year of attempts to withdraw American forces from Syria in a bipartisan effort led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader.
But Mr. Trump’s decision last week to essentially clear the way for a Turkish military operation against America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria has provoked the strongest response yet from Republicans, including many of the president’s most reliable allies.
Mr. McConnell opened his weekly news conference on Wednesday by expressing his “gratitude to the Kurds,” and added, “I’m sorry that we are where we are.”
After Mr. Trump said Wednesday that Turkey’s invasion into Syria had “nothing to do with us” and that the Kurds “are no angels,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called it “an astonishing statement which I completely and totally reject.”
Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, wrote on Twitter that it is “Impossible to understand why @realDonaldTrump is leaving America’s allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS.”
Hawkish lawmakers like Ms. Cheney and Mr. Graham, as well as Democratic leaders in the House, are preparing additional legislative action to punish the Turks’ incursion. Mr. Graham introduced a sanctions package with Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, last week, that would impose harsher sanctions on Turkey than the White House has enacted, including the prohibition of American military assistance and the freezing of the American assets of Mr. Erdogan and other Turkish leaders.
4 Big Questions About Syria’s Future
The surprise American withdrawal from parts of northern Syria reshuffled old alliances and touched off a new stage of the eight-year war.
A small handful of libertarian-minded Republicans on Capitol Hill, including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, have defended Mr. Trump’s decision as being consistent with the president’s campaign promise to end America’s intractable military conflicts.
“If we can save one American soldier from losing their life or limbs in another senseless middle eastern war, it is worthwhile,” Mr. Paul wrote on Twitter. “@realDonaldTrump knows this.”
It is unclear exactly how far congressional Republicans will go in their objections to Mr. Trump’s latest decision. Some of the president’s defenders who immediately vented their ire at the Syria withdrawal, including Mr. Graham, have since cooled their tone.
Mr. Graham, for example, released a long statement on Monday after meeting with Mr. Trump at the White House and joining a call with Mr. Erdogan.
“The president’s team has a plan and I intend to support them as strongly as possible, and to give them reasonable time and space to achieve our mutual goals,” Mr. Graham said.
Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida, who had sharply criticized the withdrawal, emerged from a meeting with the White House on Tuesday sounding reassured.
“It was useful to see a lot of the promises that Erdogan made the president and to understand how forcefully the president, Secretary Esper, told the Turks across the board not to do this,” Mr. Waltz said in a brief interview, referring to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. Mr. Waltz added that the White House was “livid” with Mr. Erdogan.
Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo are to meet on Thursday with the Turkish president to relay Mr. Trump’s demand that Mr. Erdogan negotiate a cease-fire, and to reiterate the president’s threat to impose economic sanctions if he does not.
Mr. Trump is also set to meet with Mr. Erdogan in November at the White House. But lawmakers on Wednesday called for the president to cancel the talks.
“Erdogan’s attack on our Kurdish partners has served to liberate ISIS prisoners, bolster the Assad regime, and strengthen Russia,” said Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee. “His invitation to the White House should be revoked.”
Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.
Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com