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 TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE roiled the alliance with demands that allies spend more on defense.

The group was revived by Sens. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDesign leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay Bipartisan senators push new bill to improve foreign lobbying disclosures MORE (D-N.H.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump hit with fierce backlash over interference remarks 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 BarrassoBipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: 'You are the pride of our nation' MORE (Wyo.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE (Iowa), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (Colo.), Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsHouse panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa MORE (S.D.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (Fla.); Democratic Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe generational divide of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party Booker, O'Rourke, Buttigieg rally with striking McDonald's workers in South Carolina Booker, O'Rourke, Buttigieg rally with striking McDonald's workers in South Carolina MORE (N.J.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Senate Democrat: Trump Mexico tariff threat 'hopefully' a breaking point for GOP MORE (Del.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories Democratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment MORE (Ore.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties MORE (Md.) and Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOn The Money: Economy adds 75K jobs in May | GOP senator warns tariffs will wipe out tax cuts | Trump says 'good chance' of deal with Mexico On The Money: Economy adds 75K jobs in May | GOP senator warns tariffs will wipe out tax cuts | Trump says 'good chance' of deal with Mexico Trump administration appeals ruling that blocked offshore Arctic drilling 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.”