The Republican-controlled Senate advanced an amendment urging the U.S. to continue the fight against Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Syria and Afghanistan and avoid any “precipitous withdrawal' from those conflicts, marking a rare break with President Donald Trump.
'ISIS and al-Qaeda have yet to be defeated and American national security interests require continued commitment to our mission there,' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor before the 68-23 vote Thursday.
The majority leader called the amendment, which he introduced Tuesday, 'just an opportunity for senators to go on the record about what our country should be doing in Syria and Afghanistan.' But the measure could also be viewed as a test for Democratic senators lining up to run for president in 2020.
'I guess some Senate Democrats don’t want to vote on these important subjects,' said McConnell of Kentucky. 'Perhaps it could put some of my colleagues with aims beyond the Senate at odds with parts of the far left' who want to withdraw U.S. forces.
Trump announced in December that he would withdraw U.S. forces from Syria after he declared victory over Islamic State in the war-torn country. A number of lawmakers, including Republicans, opposed the decision. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned shortly after the announcement, followed soon after by Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the global coalition fighting Islamic State.
McConnell’s amendment is being added to a package of defense bills, S. 1, that would direct the Trump administration to impose sanctions on entities that do business with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, such as selling petroleum products or aircraft parts. It also would let state and local governments refuse to do business with anyone who boycotts Israel.
The Senate voted earlier this week to move forward with the legislation, which was introduced by Florida Republican Marco Rubio.
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