WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with President Sergio Mattarella of Italy in the East Room at the White House October 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump is hosting President Mattarella at the White House today with an Oval Office meeting, a joint news conference and an evening reception. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Georgia Republicans fracture over rebuke of Trump for abandoning Kurds

In an overwhelming vote that fractured Republicans, the U.S. House on Wednesday afternoon passed a bipartisan resolution that rebuked President Donald Trump for his withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, a decision that cleared the path for Turkey to invade territory controlled by Kurds that were allied with the U.S. against the Islamic State. From the Associated Press:

The measure, passed by a 354-60 vote Wednesday, says the withdrawal benefits U.S. adversaries including Syria, Iran and Russia. It calls on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “immediately cease unilateral military action” in northern Syria.

“This resolution reaffirms our commitment to supporting our Kurdish partners and preventing an ISIS resurgence that would threaten our homeland,” Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the lead House GOP sponsor of the measure and the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

Trump’s decision has drawn harsh criticism from congressional Republicans and Democrats, including one of his closest allies, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

“This is the most screwed-up decision I’ve seen since I have been in Congress,” Graham said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting.

Trump used a press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella to say: “Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years.”

Every Georgia Democrat endorsed the rebuke. The split among Georgia Republicans reflected the division within the House GOP caucus as a whole. Among those voting to condemn Trump’s action:

-- Doug Collins of Gainesville, who as ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, has been one of Trump’s top defenders in Congress. But Collins has also served as a military chaplain in Iraq.

-- Buddy Carter of Pooler;

-- Drew Ferguson of West Point.;

-- Austin Scott of Tifton;

-- and Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville, who is not running for re-election.

The Georgia Republicans voting no:

-- Rick Allen of Augusta;

-- Tom Graves of Ranger

-- and Barry Loudermilk of Cassville.

Voting present was Jody Hice of Monroe, a top leader in the House Freedom Caucus. More from the Associated Press:

In addition to the resolution, some Trump allies including Graham are proposing harsh sanctions on Turkey. Graham plans to introduce his sanctions bill with Maryland Democrat Sen. Chris Van Hollen on Thursday. It follows similar bipartisan proposals from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a GOP sanctions bill led by Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of Republican leadership.

The Trump administration announced its own Turkey sanctions package this week, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed as not strong enough.

Graham on Wednesday stepped up his criticism of Trump after saying earlier this week that he wanted to give Trump “reasonable time and space” to negotiate an end to hostilities between Turkey and the Kurds.

The president dismissed concerns that the U.S. withdrawal from Syria has abandoned the Kurds against the Turkish military and that Russia has moved into the region to fill the void.

“Syria may have some help with Russia and that’s fine,” Trump said earlier Wednesday. “It’s a lot of sand. They’ve got a lot of sand over there, so there’s a lot of sand they can play with.”

Trump said the Kurds, an ethnic minority that helped the U.S. hold territory gained from the Islamic State, are not “angels.” He said they are well-protected and know how to fight. “Syria is friendly with the Kurds,” Trump said, adding that the Kurds “are much safer right now.”

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, called Trump’s decision to withdraw troops “callous and impulsive” and said it “set into motion a calamitous breakdown in international security in Syria, one with long-lasting consequences for the United States and the world.”

The House resolution calls on the U.S. to support Kurdish communities with humanitarian aid and to ensure that the Turkish military “acts with restraint and respects existing agreements relating to Syria.” It also calls on the White House to come up with a plan for the “enduring defeat of ISIS.”

The Senate version of the resolution is sponsored by Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and Todd Young of Indiana, a Republican member of the committee and chairman of the Senate GOP’s campaign organization.

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.
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