Senate adds members to pro-NATO group

Senate adds members to pro-NATO group
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The Senate on Tuesday bulked up the membership of its NATO Observer Group, a week after 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 roiled the alliance with demands that allies spend more on defense.

The group was revived by Sens. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCongress must step up to protect Medicare home health care Dems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Bipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia MORE (D-N.H.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration GOP senator dedicates heart photo to wife from Senate floor for Valentine's Day MORE (R-N.C.) earlier this year to help coordinate Senate efforts related to NATO. At the time, both senators said Trump was not the impetus for their effort.

On Tuesday, Senate leaders appointed ten senators to join the group: Republican Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Senators highlight threat from invasive species MORE (Wyo.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstPush for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 Ivanka Trump to meet with GOP senators to discuss paid family leave legislation On The Money: Negotiators aiming to reach deal Monday night | Why border talks stalled | Treasury calls reports on dip in tax refunds 'misleading' | Cuomo, Trump to discuss SALT deduction cap MORE (Iowa), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt Lawmakers eager for 5G breakthrough MORE (Colo.), Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP senator: Trump thinks funding deal is 'thin gruel' Lawmakers put Pentagon's cyber in their sights Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans MORE (S.D.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio in Colombia to push for delivery of humanitarian aid to Venezuela On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week MORE (Fla.); Democratic Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Sherrod Brown pushes for Medicare buy-in proposal in place of 'Medicare for all' Harris off to best start among Dems in race, say strategists, donors MORE (N.J.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsTrump got in Dem’s face over abortion at private meeting: report Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Actor Chris Evans meets with Democratic senators before State of the Union MORE (Del.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The border deal: What made it in, what got left out Lawmakers introduce bill to fund government, prevent shutdown MORE (Ore.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Senate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems MORE (Md.) and Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingDrama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry Warner, Burr split on committee findings on collusion Overnight Defense: Top general wasn't consulted on Syria withdrawal | Senate passes bill breaking with Trump on Syria | What to watch for in State of the Union | US, South Korea reach deal on troop costs MORE (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats.

“As our community of democracies continues to come under attack by those who wish to reshape the rules-based international order, often by force, this link will be critical to educating lawmakers and citizens alike on the importance of having allies in difficult times,” Shaheen said in a statement announcing the new members.

“During a time when NATO members face increasing conventional and non-conventional threats from our adversaries, it is vital for all members to work towards strengthening our alliance and advancing our shared strategic objectives,” Tillis added.

The Senate NATO Observer Group was first formed in 1997 amid an expansion of the alliance but disbanded in 2007 when there was no round of new countries joining that year.

Since then, a resurgent Russia has annexed Crimea in a move Western nations say was illegal, backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and meddled in Western elections including the U.S. presidential election.

Last week, Trump rattled allies during NATO’s summit in Brussels by escalating his demands that allies spend more on defense. In a closed-door meeting, he floated the idea of raising NATO’s defense spending goal from 2 percent of GDP to 4 percent and in another, he reportedly said the U.S. could “go it alone” if allies don’t meet his demands.

Allies were further shaken by Trump’s summit Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Trump accepted Putin’s denials of election meddling. Trump walked back those comments Tuesday.

In statements on joining the Senate NATO Observer Group, the new members talked about the need to demonstrate support for the alliance amid a resurgent Russia and other threats. But only King directly mentioned the president.

“After the president spent his week in Europe dividing our allies and embracing Putin, it is clear that the Senate must play a larger part in strengthening our relationships with NATO allies — and that is exactly what the Senate NATO Observer Group can do,” King said.

“The president has the constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy, but Congress also has the responsibility to conduct oversight to ensure that our NATO commitments, and those of our allies, are being upheld – and given Russia’s recent history of using military force in attempts to change international borders, and more subtle tactics to undermine democratic political institutions, those international commitments to the continued strength of NATO are vital to America’s national security.”