Senate advances Syria policy bill after shutdown ends
© Greg Nash

The Senate advanced a foreign policy bill over an initial hurdle on Monday evening, after Senate Democrats previously blocked the bill three times.

Senators voted 74-19 to end debate on whether or not to take up the legislation, which had been stuck in limbo for weeks because of the partial government shutdown. Sixty votes were needed to break the filibuster.

The foreign policy package was expected to be the first piece of legislation passed by the Senate in 2019. But Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (D-N.Y.) pledged that Democrats would filibuster it in an effort keep the chamber focused on the partial government shutdown, which closed roughly a quarter of the government for 35 days.

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With the shutdown fight defused, for now, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE (R-Ky.) moved to bring back up the foreign policy legislation, which includes sanctions on the Syrian government and increased support for Jordan and Israel.

"Due to the Democrats’ filibuster, Israel, Jordan, and the innocent people of Syria have already had to wait 24 days for the Senate to proceed to these uncontroversial and widely-supported bipartisan bills. So, I hope our colleagues across the aisle don’t keep them waiting much longer," McConnell said ahead of Monday's vote.

Though the legislation doesn't speak directly to the U.S. military's involvement in Syria, senators are likely to try offer amendments that would counter the president's decision to drawdown the U.S. footprint in Syria.

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) filed an amendment on Monday that would authorize Trump to use the U.S. military to defend Kurds in Syria.

“There must always be a moral component to America’s foreign policy, and it’s our moral responsibility to be loyal to our allies," Kennedy said in a statement. "The Syrian Kurds were indispensable in our fight against ISIS in Syria, and we shouldn’t leave them high and dry. This amendment will ensure the protection of our Kurdish allies and demonstrate our appreciation for their help in the war against ISIS.”

Though the shutdown fight has been put on hold, 19 Democrats still voted against advancing the legislation on Monday. Several Democrats indicated they would oppose the measure because of a provision that seeks to counter the "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions" movement by opposing boycotts or divestment from Israel.

"While I do not support the BDS movement, we must defend every American’s constitutional right to engage in political activity. It is clear to me that this bill would violate Americans’ First Amendment rights," Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Andrew Yang: News coverage of Trump a 'microcosm' of issues facing country MORE (I-Vt.) said in a statement.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (D-Ill.) told reporters before the vote that he would also oppose the bill.

"I oppose it because it limits the right of individuals to express themselves under the Constitution," Durbin said.