Senate Republicans joined Democrats in offering a direct rebuke Thursday of the administration’s Syria policy, marking the first time during the new Congress that the GOP caucus has formally broken with President Trump.
Senators voted 68-23 to end debate on an amendment that warns Trump against drawing down troops in Syria and Afghanistan. Senators still need to hold a second vote to add the amendment to the foreign policy bill, which will likely take place next week.
The vote is the latest sign of fracture between congressional Republicans and Trump on foreign policy. The president caught lawmakers off guard when he announced last month that he would yank troops from Syria. He further rankled Republicans this week when he lashed out at top administration intelligence officials after they publicly contradicted him on Iran.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who argued that the Senate vote was not a “political issue,” said he opposed the administration’s policy because “it directly undermines one of the two pillars of our strategy and our policy in the region.”
“What I’ll say here today is what I said initially about it, my position that I thought it was a bad idea. I said it then. I said it to the president in a subsequent meeting, and I thought it was important to restate it here,” Rubio said.
Asked what message the vote Thursday sent, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that it showed Congress is a “co-equal branch of government.”
It also urges the administration to certify that certain conditions have been met “for the enduring defeat of al Qaeda and ISIS before initiating any significant withdrawal of United States forces from Syria or Afghanistan.”