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McConnell wants a Syria resolution stronger than what passed the Democratically controlled House

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops from Syria, said Thursday he wants the Senate to pass a resolution condemning the move that is “even stronger” than the one that passed the House Wednesday with a broad bipartisan vote.

“I was encouraged to see yesterday’s display of bipartisan concern in the House of Representatives for sustaining America’s global leadership and, specifically, over the damaging impact of hastily withdrawing that leadership from Syria,” the GOP leader said on the floor.

“As the Senate debates our Middle East policy and contemplates what action to take, I believe it is important that we make a strong, forward-looking, strategic statement,” he added.

McConnell chided the Democrats for not including in their resolution anything about the need to keep troops in Syria over the long term, something he noted might be politically difficult because many Democratic lawmakers and voters are anxious to bring troops home.

“My preference would be for something even stronger than the resolution the House passed yesterday, which has some serious weaknesses,” McConnell said. “It is so narrowly drafted that it fails to address the plight of imperiled Sunni Arab and minority Christian communities in Syria. It is backward-looking. And it is curiously silent on the issue of whether to actually sustain a US military presence in Syria, perhaps to spare Democrats from having to go on the record on this key question.”

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer implored McConnell not to “quibble about the language” and quickly pass the House-passed resolution to send a strong message to Trump to reverse course.

“The greatest ability to make him reverse is an overwhelming message for the Republican side — House and Senate — that this is wrong. He doesn’t hear that too often from our Republican friends,” Schumer said on the floor noting that the top three GOP leaders in the House voted for the measure, which passed 354-60. “Let’s put politics aside, let’s vote on the House bill.”

A bipartisan pair of Senate critics of the Syria decision, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, are set to announce sanctions legislation against Turkey for its attacks in Syria against the Kurds that started once the US pulled out.

It’s unclear how soon the Senate might act on the type of resolution McConnell is contemplating or the sanctions legislation. But the Senate is scheduled to leave for the weekend Thursday afternoon so it might not be able to do anything until at least next week.

McConnell said he expected to have more to say on this “very soon.”

“I look forward to continuing to engage with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we chart the right course. And I expect many of us will have much more to say on this subject very soon,” McConnell said.

CNN