Schweikert among 129 House Republicans who join rebuke of Trump on Syria

President Donald Trump defended his decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, even as he announced sanctions against Turkey for attacking former U.S. allies there, the Kurds. But the House voted overwhelmingly to rebuke Trump’s action on Syria. (Photo by Shealah Craighead/White House)

WASHINGTON – Three Arizona Republicans held fast with President Donald Trump as the House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to rebuke the president’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria.

The 354-60 vote included 129 GOP lawmakers who crossed the aisle to vote with every Democrat in support of the resolution that also called on Turkey to stop its attacks on Kurdish fighters, former allies of the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State. The Senate is expected to follow suit with a similar resolution.

Rep. David Schweikert, R-Fountain Hills, was the only Arizonan among the 129 Republicans who crossed party lines to support the House resolution Wednesday, which was supported by 225 Democrats.

Schweikert’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the vote. But Rep. Paul Gosar – who was joined by Arizona Republican Reps. Andy Biggs of Gilbert and Debbie Lesko of Peoria in voting against the resolution – took to Twitter to defend that vote.

“We have no business protecting Turkish borders or Syrian borders,” tweeted Gosar, a Prescott Republican, after the vote.

Critics said the president’s move would abandon a key U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS and lead other nations to question whether they can rely on the U.S. to keep its word in the future. The resolution said pulling out now would open the door to a resurgence of the Islamic State and would be “beneficial to adversaries of the United States government, including Syria, Iran and Russia.”

While Gosar acknowledged the role the Kurds played in Syria, he noted that Kurds in the Syrian Democratic Forces have ties to the PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by the international community. He compared them to the Soviets, who went from Western allies during World War II to enemies during the Cold War.

“The PKK is a coalition of Maoists, Marxist-Leninist, Communists and Hoxhaists,” Gosar tweeted, adding, “the PKK helped us defeat IS and they gained by that collaboration. But they are not an ally we should die for.”

In a written statement, Lesko said Trump had few options when he said last week he would withdraw U.S. troops.

“The information that I have received is that the Turkish president called President Trump and said Turkey would be invading Syria and that they were going to do it no matter what – even though a small number of American troops were near the border,” Lesko’s statement said.

Attacking Turkey, a NATO ally, would not be a wise course of action, said Lesko, who said she supports sanctions against Turkey “but did not support a resolution that second-guessed the informed decisions of our Commander in Chief.”

The House vote came as Trump made new economic threats against Turkey for its attacks on Kurds that began last week. In a letter released Wednesday, but dated Oct. 9, Trump implored Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to withdraw his troops from Syria.

“You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy,” the president wrote in the letter that was reported by several news outlets.

Trump on Monday announced new sanctions against Turkey and its leaders in an attempt to halt attacks against the Kurds. That announcement came shortly after Trump tweeted that he would be fine if others – “whether it is Russia, China or Napoleon Bonaparte” – took on the job of helping Syria protect the Kurds from Turkey.

Congressional leaders headed to the White House after the House vote Wednesday to talk about the situation in Syria. But those talks broke down after what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., described as a “meltdown” by the president. Pelosi said she believed Trump was bothered by the large number of Republicans who voted for the joint resolution.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Trump had no answer for how the Turks and the Syrians would take over the responsibility of containing ISIS.

“The safety of America, the safety of the Kurds are in the hands of one person,” Schumer said gesticulating towards the White House behind him. “The best way to pressure him is a strong bipartisan resolution such as passed the House to undo the damage he has done.”

Indian Country Reporter, Washington, D.C.