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Senate defies Trump in vote against ‘precipitous’ pullout in Syria, Afghanistan

January 31, 2019

The Senate voted Thursday to stiffen President Trump’s spine and reassure allies that the U.S. is committed to its military efforts in Syria and Afghanistan, in a vote that tied Democrats in knots.

The non-binding language says al Qaeda and the Islamic State continue to “pose a global threat,” contradicting Mr. Trump’s foreign policy beliefs, laid on Twitter, that the U.S. fight against international terrorists has been largely wrapped up.

The “sense of the Senate” proposal urges though doesn’t compel the president to reevaluate the situations in Syria and Afghanistan to figure out how an American withdrawal might tip the balance of power toward the country’s enemies. It warns against “precipitous withdrawal.”

Senators voted 68-23 to head off an attempted filibuster of the language.

Three Republicans voted against the language, as did 20 members of a deeply divided Democratic Caucus, who stood on the chamber floor poring over copies of the legislation with each other, debating the meaning of various paragraphs.

Even the slate of presidential hopefuls was divided, torn between tweaking Mr. Trump and voting for the legislation, or opposing it and in effect backing his pullout plans.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, blamed the president for a “reckless” foreign policy, but said he does want to see withdrawal.

“The American people do not want endless war,” he said. “It is the job of Congress to responsibly end these military interventions and bring our troops home, not to come up with more reasons to continue them, as this amendment does. That is why I voted against it.”

Sen. John Kennedy, one of the Republicans who voted against the language, said he wasn’t sure who’s right and who’s wrong in the withdrawal debate and he wasn’t going to back a stay-the-course approach.

“Our Middle East policy right now looks like something my dog’s been keeping under our back porch. Nobody knows what it is, but it’s ugly,” he said.

The other “No” votes among the GOP were Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah.

Most Republicans, though, were eager to push for an extended commitment, saying the threats remain.

“No one has forgotten September 11, 2001, but sometimes we fail to remember what made it possible in the first place,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.

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