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 TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated MORE roiled the alliance with demands that allies spend more on defense.

The group was revived by Sens. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSunday shows - Recession fears dominate Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel MORE (D-N.H.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Gun reform groups to pressure GOP senators with rallies in all 50 states To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies 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 BarrassoIf Democrats want gun control, they must first concede defeat Conway: Republican concerns about gun reform 'all reconcilable' Five proposals Congress is eyeing after mass shootings MORE (Wyo.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstAir Force probe finds no corroboration of sexual assault allegations against Trump pick Gun control activists set to flex muscle in battle for Senate Businesses, farmers brace for new phase in Trump trade war MORE (Iowa), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down MORE (Colo.), Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsThe Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Senate braces for brawl over Trump's spy chief Overnight Defense: Esper sworn in as Pentagon chief | Confirmed in 90-8 vote | Takes helm as Trump juggles foreign policy challenges | Senators meet with woman accusing defense nominee of sexual assault MORE (S.D.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (Fla.); Democratic Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Steve King to Gillibrand: Odds of me resigning same as yours of winning presidential nomination We need a climate plan for agriculture MORE (N.J.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Biden faces scrutiny for his age from other Democrats Democrats press FBI for details on Kavanaugh investigation MORE (Del.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility Senate Dem seeks answers from DHS on reports of pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico Schumer backs Pelosi as impeachment roils caucus MORE (Ore.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency Fed to launch real-time payments system in 2023 MORE (Md.) and Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingNew intel chief inherits host of challenges Senators ask for committee vote on 'red flag' bills after shootings Top Democrat: 'Disqualifying' if Trump intel pick padded his résumé 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.”