Trump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing

Congressional Republicans are moving forward with a plan to slap additional sanctions on Turkey amid bipartisan outrage over Ankara’s invasion of northern Syria.

The push for legislation comes even as the Trump administration unveiled its own plan to penalize Turkey and try to find an offramp to the current military incursion after days of high-profile criticism from Republican allies.

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Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Graham says he has COVID-19 'breakthrough' infection Graham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar MORE (R-S.C.) said he will unveil his bill with Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Civil rights activist Gloria Richardson dies Senate Democrats hit speedbumps with big spending plans MORE (D-Md.) to place additional sanctions on Turkey this week. The legislation is expected to target Turkey’s energy sector and military, as well as limit the ability of Turkish officials to travel to the United States.

“I am hoping reason will prevail, but I will be introducing sanctions against Turkey,” Graham said. “I do appreciate what the administration has done against Turkey ... but more to follow.”

Graham’s decision to double down on his own sanctions bill comes after he threw his support behind Trump’s strategy on Monday night. The shift, which came after days of public criticism, had raised questions about whether he would demand Congress take additional steps.

Graham added on Tuesday that he and Trump “have our differences” on Syria and that he hopes Trump “will make some adjustments that make sense.”

Other GOP senators, including Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget MORE (Maine), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnMcCarthy jokes it'll be hard not to 'hit' Pelosi with gavel if he is Speaker Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE (Tenn.) and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySchumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (Ariz.), have said they would support sanctions against Turkey.

But, in a potential hurdle for supporters of tougher sanctions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate McConnell warns Democrats against 'artificial timeline' for infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ky.) has yet to say what, if any, new legislation he will support following Trump’s decision to pull back troops and Turkey’s invasion. 

“I look forward to discussing with members on both sides and with the administration how the U.S. can stand with our partners and provide strong, principled and consistent global leadership,” McConnell said on Tuesday during a floor speech.

He didn’t rule out sanctions during a separate interview with Defense News, saying “that’s what we’ll be talking about now that we’re all back together.” A McConnell spokesman confirmed the quote.

The Graham-Van Hollen bill is one of several proposals that have been floated in response to Trump’s decision to remove troops from northern Syria, paving the way for the Turkish military incursion against Kurdish forces that worked with the United States to combat ISIS.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory Afghan evacuees to be housed at Virginia base Passport backlog threatens to upend travel plans for millions of Americans MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said they were working to quickly get their sanctions bill with committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelNYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department MORE (D-N.Y.) onto the House floor.

“We appreciate the Administration’s planned action against Turkey, but it does not go far enough to punish Turkey for its egregious offenses in Syria,” said Kaylin Minton, a spokeswoman for McCaul. 

“We will continue pushing for the full range of sanctions and other economic consequences imposed in our legislation. We are optimistic our bill will move forward on the House floor soon,” she continued.

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Syria has emerged as a flash point between Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill. Trump ran in 2016 on an isolationist foreign policy, putting him at odds with most GOP lawmakers.

Republicans have publicly fumed amid the growing fallout from Trump’s decision to pull back U.S. troops from northern Syria. 

But his decisions to implement new sanctions, including ratcheting up tariffs and pausing trade talks, and to deputize Vice President Pence to lead a delegation to try to negotiate an end to Turkey’s military operation has helped cool off GOP criticism.

Graham, in the most positive statement he’s made since the White House announced it was pulling back troops, heaped praise on Trump and urged his colleagues to give the administration “reasonable time and space” to try to implement its strategy.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJim Elroy RischTracy Stone-Manning's confirmation treatment was simply unacceptable — and it must stop The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill MORE (R-Idaho) said in a statement on Tuesday that he backed Trump’s sanctions, adding that “President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and his administration must cease their destabilizing activity in Syria. Turkey has the opportunity to do what is right and end their misguided bloodshed. The world is watching.”

Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel Kinzinger58 percent say Jan. 6 House committee is biased: poll Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign MORE (R-Ill.) — who has repeatedly lashed out at Trump since last week — also offered a more restrained assessment after the president announced his own sanctions.

“Even I have been surprised at how quickly the situation has deteriorated in Syria. This is an immediate cause and effect example of why America first can’t be America only. I hope @realDonaldTrump understands now,” he tweeted.

McConnell added on Tuesday that he and senators on both sides of the aisle have “grave concern” about the on-the-ground developments in Syria. The Senate previously supported an amendment by a veto-proof majority from the GOP leader that warned the administration against withdrawing troops from Syria.

But McConnell also backed Trump’s decision to send Pence to Turkey and urged Ankara to “take steps to repair our important relationship.”

Democrats are doubling down on the need to pass stronger sanctions. With Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Average daily COVID infections topped last summer's peak, CDC says | US reaches 70 percent vaccination goal a month after Biden's target | White House says CDC can't renew eviction ban Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban Co-workers called FBI after alleged Capitol Hill rioter bragged about Jan. 6, officials say MORE (D-Calif.) behind the effort, legislation is likely to pass the House, potentially building pressure on McConnell to act.

A Democratic leadership aide noted after the president’s announcement that “there is significant bipartisan interest in advancing a legislative sanctions package.” 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPoll: Majority of voters say more police are needed amid rise in crime America's middle class is getting hooked on government cash — and Democrats aren't done yet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (D-N.Y.) added on Tuesday that Republicans also needed to support a resolution formally opposing Trump’s troop pullback. 

“The first step as Congress returns is for Democrats and Republicans to join us in passing a resolution making clear that both parties demand the president’s decision be reversed,” he said. “Our Republican colleagues have a special place here because they have far more success in getting the president to reverse course and change his views.”