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 TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE roiled the alliance with demands that allies spend more on defense.

The group was revived by Sens. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenUS envoy insists Syria pullout doesn't affect Iran strategy GOP senators say Erdoğan White House invitation should be revoked Overnight Energy: Advisory panel pushes park service to privatize campgrounds | Dems urge Perry to keep lightbulb efficiency rules | Marshall Islands declares national climate crisis MORE (D-N.H.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTillis says impeachment is 'a waste of resources' GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren, Sanders overtake Biden in third-quarter fundraising 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 BarrassoTo stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia MORE (Wyo.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstFarmers: New Trump ethanol proposal reneged on previous deal Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate Liberal group to target Ernst over Social Security 'behind closed doors' comments MORE (Iowa), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerGOP warns Graham letter to Pelosi on impeachment could 'backfire' The Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever MORE (Colo.), Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsAmerica's newest comedy troupe: House GOP 'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks MORE (S.D.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioChina's TikTok turns to former lawmakers to help with content moderation policies Hillicon Valley: Warren turns up heat in battle with Facebook | Instagram unveils new data privacy feature | Advocacy group seeks funding to write about Big Tech TikTok adds former lawmakers to help develop content moderation policies MORE (Fla.); Democratic Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony Booker2020 Democrats recognize Pronouns Day Third-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump seeks distance from Syria crisis MORE (N.J.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMeet the dog and 'sea turtle' who launched campaigns for office Senators demand briefing on Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria 2020 Democrats push for gun control action at forum MORE (Del.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Democratic senators condemn Trump for calling on China to investigate Bidens MORE (Ore.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenCheney unveils Turkey sanctions legislation Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria pullout MORE (Md.) and Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year 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.”