The Senate is gearing up to rebut the administration on Syria, after President Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops caught lawmakers flatfooted.

Wrapping up the chamber’s work for the week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set up an initial vote to take up legislation that would impose sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and bolster cooperation with Israel and Jordan.

{mosads}The bill was brought to the floor using a fast-track procedure that lets it skip over committee proceedings. It will be the first piece of legislation the Senate has a vote on since the start of the 116th Congress on Thursday.

“It speaks directly to some critical American interests in that part of the world. Our security cooperation with key partners, Israel and Jordan, and the ongoing humanitarian and security catastrophe in the Syrians’ civil war,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.

McConnell added that the legislation “affirms that the United States needs to walk the walk and authorize military assistance, cooperative missile defense as well as loan guarantees.”

The legislation was introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee; Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and McConnell.

In addition to new sanctions, it includes four bills that were introduced during the last Congress but that didn’t make it to Trump’s desk. One, from Rubio and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), seeks to counter the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement by opposing boycotts or divestment from Israel.

Though the legislation doesn’t speak directly to the U.S. military’s involvement in Syria, Senate aides told NBC News that it’s meant to reassert Congress’s role in shaping foreign policy and make the argument for continued U.S. engagement.

Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria enraged GOP senators, who gave Vice President Pence an “earful” during a closed-door lunch and have publicly urged Trump to reverse course.

McConnell appeared to tip his hat toward that debate on Friday, saying he anticipates the Senate will debate the issue “in the coming weeks” and predicted it will be “contentious.”

“There is no question that we continue to face serious challenges from al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria as well as from Iran, Russia and the Assad regime itself. And I anticipate this body will debate U.S. military strategy toward Syria in the coming weeks as it conducts oversight over the administration’s apparently ongoing review of its Syria policy,” he said.

He added that he hoped “the administration and Congress will be deliberate and sober as we consider the risk of various approaches. … The debate is forthcoming. I imagine it could be contentious.”

Tags Cory Gardner Donald Trump Jim Risch Joe Manchin Marco Rubio Mitch McConnell sanctions Senate Syria US troops

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video