GOP senator: Senate needs to 'step up' to Trump on foreign policy

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (R-Pa.), one of the most influential voices in the Senate Republican conference, says he and his GOP colleagues “need to step up” to balance President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE’s foreign policy decisions.

Toomey said on Sunday that the “vast majority of Republicans” disagree with Trump’s sudden and unexpected announcement that he would withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria because he believes the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the region has been defeated.

“I think senators need to step up and reassert a bigger role for the Senate in finding our foreign policy,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”


He called on fellow GOP lawmakers to “speak out,” arguing “we don’t report to the president.”

It was a notable statement from one of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems MORE’s (R-Ky.) most trusted advisers on key policy issues.

“I strongly disagree with this decision to withdraw prematurely, in my view, from Syria. I think senators should speak out,” Toomey said.

“And look, we were elected separately from the president. We don't report to the president. We should cooperate where we can. And where we need to disagree, we should be willing to do that,” he added.

Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria was swiftly followed by the resignation of Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences MORE, a general who has the confidence of many senators on both sides of the aisle.

One major GOP criticism of the withdrawal is that it undercuts Kurdish allies and could weaken other U.S. alliances.

“The greatest asset we have is that most people around the world want to be allied with us. So that gives us enormous ability to, it's a force multiplier, it's a great ability to achieve our goals and I don't think the president shares that view nearly to the extent that the rest of us do,” Toomey said on NBC.

Trump’s announced withdrawal from Syria caught Senate Republicans by surprise and they complained to Vice President Pence at a lunch meeting last Wednesday about getting blindsided.

About a dozen Senate Republicans grilled Pence at the closed-door meeting and said they disagree with the decision.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress Press: Justin Amash breaks ranks with party Overnight Defense: Iran tensions swirl as officials prepare to brief Congress | Trump threatens war would be 'end of Iran' | Graham tells Trump to 'stand firm' | Budget talks begin MORE (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last Thursday he will introduce a resolution calling on Trump to reverse course and maintain the American military presence in Syria.

Toomey on Sunday acknowledged “we have an impulsive president” when asked about Trump’s leadership style and his unexpected decision to reject a short-term spending measure that would have kept the federal government fully funded through Feb. 8.

Funding for 25 percent of federal government expired at midnight Saturday and Congress has adjourned until Dec. 27, leaving departments and agencies shuttered well into this week.

While Senate Republicans were frustrated by Trump’s U-turn on the stopgap funding measure, which administration officials said earlier in the week the president would sign, they are more alarmed over Mattis’s resignation.

“I am still in the mode of working with the president where I can, and trying to persuade him and move in a different direction where we have to. And I think with respect to foreign policy, in general, and Syria, in particular, we really have to step up,” Toomey said on Sunday.