Van Hollen urges Senate to take up House-passed Turkey sanctions bill

Van Hollen urges Senate to take up House-passed Turkey sanctions bill
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate Foreign Relations chair: 'Best' not to pass Turkey sanctions bill 'at this moment' On 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 MORE (D-Md.) called Thursday for the Senate to take up the House-passed Turkey sanctions bill, legislation that would punish the NATO ally for leading an incursion into northeastern Syria, attacking U.S.-backed Kurdish allies in the area and causing a humanitarian crisis.

Van Hollen, who is co-sponsor with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (R-S.C.) on their own bill sanctioning Turkey for its offensive, said it's unclear if there's forward movement in the Senate on taking up sanctions-related legislation.

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“We are pushing very hard to get a vote in the United States Senate on a bill that would impose sanctions on Turkey for its attacks on the Syrian Kurds,” he said.

“At this point in time, my view is, I’d be happy just taking up the House bill and passing it.”

The House bill, which passed Tuesday with overwhelming bipartisan support, imposes sanctions on senior Turkish government and military officials, as well as its banks. It also bans arms sales to Turkey.

Van Hollen said his bipartisan effort with Graham is stronger but that the House bill “sends a strong message.”

Graham also offered support for the House bill, saying, “We're talking about what kind of sanctions bills to have. I'm OK with what the House did. I have no pride of authorship, just take the House bill and sign me up for it."

Another bipartisan bill sanctioning Turkey was also offered by Sens. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate Foreign Relations chair: 'Best' not to pass Turkey sanctions bill 'at this moment' Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators at White House MORE (R-Idaho) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGraham blocks resolution recognizing Armenian genocide after Erdoğan meeting Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy On The Money: Trump asks Supreme Court to block Dem subpoena for financial records | Kudlow 'very optimistic' for new NAFTA deal | House passes Ex-Im Bank bill opposed by Trump, McConnell Top House Democrats ask for review of DHS appointments MORE (R-Ky.) has appeared skeptical about sanctioning Turkey as a NATO ally and instead is pushing for a resolution condemning its actions in northeastern Syria. 

The Tump administration relieved its own sanctions on Turkey on Oct. 23, following a negotiated pause in hostilities and what they described as assurances by the Turks to exercise restraint on civilian populations, including religious and ethnic minorities.

Van Hollen said the administration has not signaled whether it's likely to impose more sanctions on Turkey and have not communicated to lawmakers their view of the situation.

“We have not heard, I should say, from the Administration, where they are,” he said.

At least 200,000 people fled from areas attacked by Turkish-backed Islamist forces since the start of the offensive in the beginning of October, and human rights groups have reported abuses by proxy forces, including civilian deaths and extrajudicial killings. Syrian Kurdish forces are likening the killings to genocide.

Rebecca Kheel contributed.