Turkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate

An effort to quickly slap new sanctions on Turkey or formally oppose President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE's Syria strategy is hitting a wall in the Senate. 

Republicans are discussing potential legislation to respond to the fallout of Trump's decision to pull back U.S. troops and Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria. 

But there’s little sign the Senate will be able to act quickly, despite widespread opposition to Trump’s strategy.

ADVERTISEMENT

And there are already deep divisions within the caucus about what, if anything, should pass, complicating the chance of any bill getting through the GOP-controlled chamber. 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Public impeachment hearings to begin next week MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, noted that there “was a lot of interest” within the GOP caucus, but stopped short of predicting that something could clear the chamber. 

“I’m not sure,” he said, asked if a resolution or sanctions could pass. “I think our members are kind of looking at some of the things that are out there.” 

The administration agreed to not apply additional sanctions against Turkey during a five-day cease-fire meant to allow Kurdish fighters to evacuate. After that, a permanent cease-fire would take place and, in return, the Trump administration would agree to drop sanctions announced last week. 

Those commitments by the administration are complicating the GOP efforts to pass legislation sanctioning Ankara.

Despite the ceasefire deal, lawmakers are pledging to push forward with legislation.  

The House already passed a resolution breaking with Trump’s Syria decision in an 354-60 vote, and House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGiuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees Overnight Health Care: Top health official defends contract payments to Trump allies | Vaping advocates confident Trump will turn from flavor ban | Sanders gets endorsement from nurses union MORE (D-Calif.) has vowed the chamber would take up a "strong, bipartisan sanctions package." That vote was expected to take place this week, but a Democrat aide said it had been delayed due to changes to the House schedule in the wake of Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBrindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Elijah Cummings's widow, will run for his House seat Former NAACP president to run for Cummings's House seat MORE' passing. 

A pair of Republican senators are pledging to move forward with their own sanctions legislation despite the cease-fire agreement.

“I am continuing to go forward on getting co-sponsors,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham says Trump should be allowed to undo DACA order The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems, GOP dig in for public impeachment hearings The Hill's Morning Report - Witness transcripts plow ground for public impeachment testimony MORE (R-S.C.), a Trump ally who has broken with the president over the issue, told reporters after the cease-fire agreement. 

Asked how confident he was that the five-day cease-fire would become permanent, he added with a laugh: “It’s the Mideast for God’s sake.” 

Graham introduced sanctions legislation with Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOn The Money: Retirement savings bill blocked in Senate after fight over amendments | Stopgap bill may set up December spending fight | Hardwood industry pleads for relief from Trump trade war GAO reviewing Trump hold on Ukraine military aid Democrats unveil proposal for 'millionaires surtax' MORE (D-Md.) that would target Turkey’s military, energy sector and key banks. It also restricts the ability for top Turkish officials to travel to the United States and targets their assets within U.S. jurisdiction. 

But Graham’s bill has attracted high-profile opposition, including from Sens. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischHillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches Key Republican senator points to Chinese IP theft as holding up trade deal Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite MORE (R-Idaho) and James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeEleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Overnight Defense: Pentagon says Syrian oil revenue going to Kurdish forces | GOP chair accuses Dems of using Space Force as leverage in wall fight | Dems drop plans to seek Bolton testimony GOP senator: House Democrats using Space Force as leverage in border wall fight MORE (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Risch has introduced his own bill with Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezTrump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward Isolationism creeps back over America, as the president looks out for himself MORE (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. It would restrict arms sales to Turkey, sanction Turkish officials and authorize humanitarian assistance for Syrian civilians. 

“We have our own bill. This is a bipartisan bill. We have talked to many, many people who are interested in this, not the least of which is the administration. This is a bill that actually has a very significant possibility of becoming law,” Risch said.

Graham downplayed Risch’s legislation, suggesting there was room for multiple bills. 

“He’s got his own bill. This is good. I hope we have like 100 bills,” he said. 

Inhofe, meanwhile, said that he supports additional sanctions against Turkey but that he thought there was a “better approach" than the Graham-Van Hollen bill.

Pressed for details on what he thought would be a better approach, Inhofe was tightlipped, only telling reporters “this is something that's a work in progress that I'm participating in.” 

Syria has emerged as a flashpoint in the relationship between Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill, most of whom have generally been reluctant to publicly air their grievances with the White House.

GOP lawmakers decried Trump’s Syria strategy as “catastrophic,” a “grave mistake” and the “biggest blunder of his presidency.” Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyClub for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment Pennsylvania's other election-night story This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry MORE (R-Utah), in a closely watched floor speech, ripped the cease-fire as “far from a victory” and called the president’s decision a “bloodstain in the annals of American history."

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell protege emerges as Kentucky's next rising star Hillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches McConnell, GOP leaders say they won't be watching House impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ky.) used a Washington Post op-ed to send up his latest of red flags about the decision, calling it a “grave strategic mistake.” 

But the cease-fire agreement has earned Trump some, at least temporary, goodwill from GOP lawmakers. 

Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHouse Republicans add Hunter Biden, whistleblower to impeachment hearing witness wish list Trump: Whistleblower 'must come forward' House approves Turkey sanctions in rare bipartisan rebuke of Trump MORE (R-Texas), who co-authored the House sanctions bill, told Fox News that he wants to give the administration’s strategy a chance to work. 

“We have a sanctions bill ... that we’re prepared to move forward with if this cease-fire does not work, but we certainly want to give it a chance to see if peace can be accomplished in this region,” he said. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse Republicans prepare for public impeachment proceedings with mock hearing Live updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate MORE (R-Calif.) also said he thought the administration’s strategy had worked and that they should take the lead. 

“Well, you know the thing that you have is that the president was able to do [broker a cease-fire deal] using his sanctions, they got it here,” McCarthy told The Hill on Thursday.  “I think we should allow the president and them [administration officials] to do their work.”

McConnell, despite his unusually public criticism, hasn’t committed to bringing either sanctions legislation or the House-passed resolution up for a vote on the Senate floor. 

He started the process on Friday of placing Graham’s sanctions bill onto the Senate calendar, and has placed the House-passed Syria resolution on the calendar. That does not guarantee either will be brought up for a vote, and initial floor guidance for this week from McConnell’s office did not mention Syria-related legislation. 

McConnell, during a floor speech late last week, said he wanted “something stronger” than the House-passed resolution and appeared to hint that additional legislation could be forthcoming. 

“My preference would be for something even stronger than the resolution the House passed yesterday, which has some serious weaknesses. It is so narrowly drafted that it fails to address the plight of imperiled Sunni Arab and minority Christian communities in Syria. It is backward-looking,” he said. 

He added that “I look forward to continuing to engage with my colleagues … and I expect many of us will have much more to say on this subject very soon.”

But the House resolution has bipartisan support in the Senate, where Menendez and Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Former AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race Sessions expected to announce plans to run for Senate MORE (R-Ind.) have offered a companion measure.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDivided Supreme Court leans toward allowing Trump to end DACA Ilhan Omar blasts Pete King as an 'Islamophobe' after he announces retirement: 'Good riddance' Top Senate Dem: Officials timed immigration policy around 2020 election MORE (D-N.Y.) tried to get a vote on the House resolution on Thursday but was blocked by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFox News legal analyst says quid pro quo is 'clearly impeachable': Trump requested 'criminal' act Federal court rules baseless searches of travelers' devices unconstitutional Sunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates MORE (R-Ky.). 

He indicated on Friday that Democrats will try again, arguing that the best way to get Trump to reverse course would be for McConnell “to put the bipartisan resolution that passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, on the Senate floor for a vote next week.” 

Graham is also publicly pressuring McConnell to put the resolution up for a vote, predicting it would easily pass the Senate. 

“I believe that same resolution, if brought to the floor of the United States Senate would get over 80 votes,” Graham said. “I'm urging Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer to find a way to do that because people are literally dying as we speak and we want the president to be successful.” 

Juliegrace Brufke contributed.