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: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon GAO finds Trump administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid Lobbying World 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 GrahamDemocratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Roberts sworn in to preside over Trump impeachment trial 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 RischSenate vote on Trump's new NAFTA held up by committee review Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Democrats 'utterly unpersuaded' by evidence behind Soleimani strike MORE (R-Idaho) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Democrats 'utterly unpersuaded' by evidence behind Soleimani strike MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPoll shows Collins displaces McConnell as most unpopular senator Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: 'CNN can see through this nonsense' Trump says impeachment trial should move 'very quickly' 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.