House lawmaker introduces bill to halt F-35 sale to Turkey

House lawmaker introduces bill to halt F-35 sale to Turkey
© Greg Nash

House Foreign Affairs Committee member David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is renewing last year’s efforts to block an F-35 fighter jet sale to Turkey over its military aggression toward U.S.-backed forces and concerns the NATO ally is becoming too cozy with Russia.

Cicilline on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill that would prohibit the sale or transfer of F-35s and any related intellectual property or data until President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview MORE certifies that Turkey is not “taking steps to degrade NATO interoperability, exposing NATO assets to hostile actors,” or “degrading the general security of NATO member states.”

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It also must not be “seeking to import or purchase defense articles from a foreign country with respect to which sanctions are imposed by the United States; wrongfully or unlawfully detaining one or more nationals of the United States or aliens law; or engaging in military action without taking proper steps to ensure that international legal norms are followed to prevent civilian deaths and suffering.”

The bill was co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoThe new Democratic Congress has an opportunity to move legislation to help horses On The Money: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown poised to become longest in history | Congress approves back pay for workers | More federal unions sue over shutdown The 7 Republicans who voted against back pay for furloughed workers MORE (Fla.), Gus Bilirakis (Fla.) and Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtDems accused of MeToo hypocrisy in Virginia Granger to serve as ranking member of House Appropriations Committee Earmarks look to be making a comeback MORE (Ala.), and Democratic Reps. John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesTo end Washington corruption, officeholders and candidates must have a new way to finance their campaigns Progressives want Dem bill to require presidents release business tax returns Lawmakers push crackdown on foreign lobbyists MORE (Md.), Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Lawmakers pay tribute to John Dingell's legacy on health care | White House denies officials are sabotaging ObamaCare | FDA wants meeting with Juul, Altria execs on youth vaping Hillicon Valley: Dems ready to subpoena Trump Tower meeting phone records | Dems, Whitaker in standoff over testimony | Bezos accuses National Enquirer of 'extortion' | Amazon offers rules for facial recognition | Apple releases FaceTime fix MORE (N.J.) and Jim McGovern (Mass).

Washington is poised to hand over the first of an eventual 116 F-35 Lightning II fighters to Turkey, which has committed to buy the F-35A variant under the U.S.-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program.

But Turkey lately has been a cause for concern.

The Turkish government for 18 months has imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson, accusing him of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in a failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Ankara in December also announced that it finalized a contract with Russia for the S-400 long-range air-defense system.

The sale has NATO members worried, as the S-400 is not interoperable with NATO defense systems.

Washington and Ankara are also at odds over how to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The U.S. has backed the Kurdish forces in Syria in their fight against ISIS, but Turkey considers the Kurdish groups to be terrorists and in March seized Afrin, Syria, from a Kurdish militia. The United States said it was “deeply concerned” by the incident.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to Turkey’s thuggish, reprehensible behavior,” Cicilline said in a statement on the bill’s release. “There have to be consequences for any regime that commits such horrific human rights abuses and constantly steps out of line with our own interests. ... It’s important that we hold NATO members to the same standard we would hold any other country.”

In addition, Cicilline has proposed the F-35 ban as an amendment to the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed by the House Armed Services Committee last week. The House is expected to take up the bill and deal with amendments next week.

The amendment lists the same stipulations as in Cicilline’s newly introduced bill and spells out that no funds for the NDAA may be used to transfer F-35 aircraft to Turkey until such parameters are met.

Cicilline last year offered an amendment in the fiscal 2018 NDAA that also blocked the transfer of F-35s to Turkey, citing the violence carried out by bodyguards for Erdoğan.

That amendment would have blocked the F-35 sale until Trump certified that Turkey “is cooperating with the criminal investigation and prosecution of Turkish Government employees involved in the assault on civilians in Washington, D.C,. on May 17, 2017.”

The amendment did not make it out of the House Rules Committee and was not debated on the floor. 

The House NDAA already has a provision that would to hold all U.S. weapons sales to Turkey until a report is created to analyze worsening tensions between Washington and Ankara.

separate Senate bill introduced last month would block Turkey from receiving F-35s over the imprisonment of Brunson.