Dem seeks to block US troops going to Syria after Marines deployed
A Democratic lawmaker is introducing a bill to block additional U.S. forces from being sent into Syria after an amphibious task force of Marines landed in Syria for the first time.
“The bill I am introducing today prohibits the Department of Defense from funding any attempt by the administration to expand our presence in Syria by putting U.S. combat boots on the ground,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement to The Hill.
“It is our constitutional duty as members of Congress to place a check on the executive branch in matters of war and peace,” she said.
Lee was the lone lawmaker to vote against the authorization for the use of military force in the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which has been used as the legal justification for the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Her bill has 16 original co-sponsors — all Democrats, except for Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.).
The legislation comes after news outlets started reporting late Wednesday that Marines from 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit had left their ships in the Middle East to deploy on the ground in Syria ahead of the fight to retake Raqqa from ISIS. The Marines are there to provide artillery fire, according to the reports.
On Thursday morning, Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, confirmed the deployment in a hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Our intention here with this — and this fell within the authorities that are provided to me right now — was to ensure that we had redundant capable fighters support on the ground to support our partners and ensure that we could take advantage of opportunities and ensure the continuing progress that we’ve been seeing,” Votel said.
In addition to the Marines, the U.S. has also reportedly recently sent a team of Army Rangers to help prepare for the Raqqa fight.
The 400 Rangers and Marines add to the approximately 500 U.S. special operators that were already in Syria to train, advise and assist local forces.
The new troops are considered a temporary deployment and are not being counted against the 500-troop cap set by the Obama administration that has yet to be changed by the Trump administration.
Under Lee’s bill, the Pentagon would be prohibited from using funds to send troops to Syria for ground combat operations, award a contract to a private security firm for ground activity or otherwise establish or maintain a presence of U.S. troops or a private security contractor in Syria.
The bill would allow for exceptions to “protect, rescue or remove” U.S. personnel.
Lee had tried to introduce similar language as an amendment to the defense spending bill passed by the House on Wednesday but was blocked by the House Rules Committee.
The language in the new bill is even stricter; the amendment to the spending bill would have allowed for special operations forces.
In her statement, Lee urged her colleagues to support the bill.
“We owe it to our brave service members to live up to our constitutional duty,” she said. “I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in preventing this president from sending our troops into yet another unchecked, ill-advised war without a full and robust debate from Congress.”
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.