A bipartisan group of senators announced new sanctions legislation against Turkey on Thursday in response to the country’s recent invasion of northern Syria.
The sanctions package was spearheaded by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and was put forward as a supplementary effort to sanctions announced by the White House earlier this week.
“We appreciate what the president did with the sanctions against turkey,” Graham said, flanked by fellow lawmakers at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “We’re here to add to it, to supplement what the president did, and let Turkey know there are three branches of government,” as a reminder that Congress also weighs in on foreign policy.
Earlier this week, president Donald Trump announced the authorization of sanctions in the form of trade penalties against Turkey, stating that the country’s “military offensive is endangering civilians and threatening peace, security, and stability in the region.”
According to a bill summary that Graham tweeted ahead of the news conference, the sanctions bill is titled the “Countering Turkish Aggression Act of 2019” and would impose sanctions on Turkish government officials as well as any other foreign actor helping the Turkish military. It also prohibits American entities from assisting the Turkish military.
The Countering Turkish Aggression Act of 2019 Section by Section Bill Summary
Press conference at 12:30 pm in Senate Radio-TV Gallery. pic.twitter.com/uKixQva3rx
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 17, 2019
“I think it’s not a surprise to anybody that Senator Graham and I don’t agree on lots of things,” but “we do agree this is a precarious moment for our country and our role in the world,” Van Hollen said. “When we first learned of the president’s decision and Turkey’s response, we both had the same reaction: First to call upon the president to do everything in his power to undo the damage that’s been caused, but also that we in this Congress have a bipartisan responsibility to stand up for America’s role in the world.”
Last week, the White House announced that the U.S. would pull troops out of an area near the northern Syrian border ahead of an anticipated Turkish offensive into the area, with Trump saying it was “time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.” The move has drawn criticism from both Republicans and Democrats alike, particularly because of Turkey’s attacks on Kurdish forces in the area.
Graham first announced that he was working with Van Hollen on the measure shortly after the White House’s announcement last week. “Hope and expect sanctions against Turkey — if necessary — would be veto-proof,” the senator tweeted.
The Senate legislation announced Thursday is separate from the resolution criticizing Trump’s troop withdrawal passed by the House of Representatives the day before. However, during the press conference, Graham predicted that the resolution — which passed the House by a vote of 354-60 — would garner “over 80 votes” if it were brought to the floor of the upper chamber and urged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring it up.
Earlier that same day, McConnell said that he was encouraged by the House-passed measure, but said on the Senate floor that his “preference would be for something even stronger than the resolution that the House passed yesterday, which has some serious weaknesses.”
Update: Shortly after this story was published, Vice President Mike Pence announced a cease-fire agreement with Turkey. While Graham said he was he’s “encouraged” by news of the cease-fire, he still plans to forge ahead on the sanctions legislation for now, in case Turkey doesn’t follow through on its end of the bargain.