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 Energy: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' GOP blames environmental efforts, but Democrats see public health problems with stimulus Blame game heats up as Senate motion fails 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 GrahamSunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus 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 RischTensions boil over on Senate floor amid coronavirus debate  Overnight Defense: Pentagon confirms Iran behind recent rocket attack | Esper says 'all options on the table' | Military restricts service member travel over coronavirus Graham warns of 'aggressive' response to Iran-backed rocket attack that killed US troops MORE (R-Idaho) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezHillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website Democratic senators press Google over privacy of coronavirus screening site Menendez calls for 'Marie Yovanovitch bill' to protect foreign service employees MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Struggling states warn coronavirus stimulus falls short Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike 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.