Senate adds members to pro-NATO group

Senate adds members to pro-NATO group
© Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday bulked up the membership of its NATO Observer Group, a week after President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE roiled the alliance with demands that allies spend more on defense.

The group was revived by Sens. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (D-N.H.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTrump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' North Carolina governor: We saw ‘significant damage’ in eastern part of state GOP senator on allegation against Kavanaugh: 'Why on Earth' wasn't it discussed earlier? 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 BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill MORE (Wyo.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP senator divorcing from husband GOP senators introduce bill to preserve ObamaCare's pre-existing conditions protections Pence: Trump’s national security will be as 'dominant' in space as it is on Earth MORE (Iowa), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Colorado governor sets up federal PAC before potential 2020 campaign Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (Colo.), Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsOn The Money: Treasury rules target blue-state workarounds to tax law | Senate approves sweeping defense, domestic spending bill | US imposes B in tariffs on Chinese goods | Panel narrowly approves consumer bureau pick Senate panel narrowly approves Trump consumer bureau pick GOP sen: Sessions is ‘the right man for the job’ MORE (S.D.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioNikki Haley: New York Times ‘knew the facts’ about curtains and still released story March For Our Lives founder leaves group, says he regrets trying to 'embarrass' Rubio Rubio unloads on Turkish chef for 'feasting' Venezuela's Maduro: 'I got pissed' MORE (Fla.); Democratic Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerEx-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report CNN editor: Booker's 'groping incident' 'different' from Kavanaugh allegation Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 MORE (N.J.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsJudiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh Kavanaugh allegations could be monster storm brewing for midterm elections      Sunday shows preview: White House officials on offensive in wake of anonymous NY Times op-ed MORE (Del.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDem senator calls on Kavanaugh to withdraw after second allegation Feinstein calls for hold on Kavanaugh consideration Overnight Energy: Warren bill would force companies to disclose climate impacts | Green group backs Gillum in Florida gov race | Feds to open refuge near former nuke site MORE (Ore.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Dems to Trump: Reverse cuts to Palestinian aid Overnight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (Md.) and Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingA Senator Gary Johnson could be good not just for Libertarians, but for the Senate too Restoring our national parks would be a bipartisan win for Congress Restore our parks 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.”