Turkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate

An effort to quickly slap new sanctions on Turkey or formally oppose President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary 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.


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 ThuneUnemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal 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 PelosiNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package 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 CummingsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden comes to Washington to honor John Lewis Lawmakers set for tearful goodbye to John Lewis We have 100 days to make our nation right 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 GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war Graham leads Democratic challenger Harrison by 1 point in South Carolina: poll The Global Fragility Act provides the tools to address long-term impacts of COVID 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 HollenOvernight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw VOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage 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 RischSenators blast Turkey's move to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque Progressive group backs Democratic challenger to Sen. Risch Republicans start bracing for shutdown fight in run-up to election MORE (R-Idaho) and James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection MORE (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees. 


Risch has introduced his own bill with Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezVOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Bottom line Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads 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 RomneyNRCC poll finds McBath ahead of Handel in Georgia Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  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 McConnellTrump's election delay red herring On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project 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 McCaulThe Global Fragility Act provides the tools to address long-term impacts of COVID House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers 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 McCarthyBass honored US Communist Party leader in unsurfaced remarks Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Overnight Health Care: Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony | CDC: Children might play 'important role' in spreading COVID-19 | GOP leader wants rapid testing at Capitol 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 YoungRepublicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election Senate GOP posts M quarter haul as candidates, Trump struggle A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government MORE (R-Ind.) have offered a companion measure.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package Meadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program MORE (D-N.Y.) tried to get a vote on the House resolution on Thursday but was blocked by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMultiple lawmakers self-quarantine after exposure to Gohmert Gohmert tests positive for COVID-19 Republican senators revolt over coronavirus proposal 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.