@SpeakerPelosi: Say No to “Fast Track” for House Rejection of Syria Withdrawal
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On Tuesday, under fast-track “suspension” procedures, House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel - who voted to authorize George W. Bush's Iraq war and voted against Barack Obama's diplomacy to prevent war with Iran - is pushing sweeping sanctions on Syria, Russia, and Iran as the first major foreign policy vote in the new Democratic-led House. House “suspension” procedures are supposed to be used exclusively for “noncontroversial” legislation. But fast track consideration of this bill is widely perceived to be intended as a rebuke to the Administration’s plans to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. Many Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents - agree that U.S. forces should be withdrawn from Syria in an orderly way, as the Pentagon has announced that it is now doing. Insisting that the U.S. must stay in Syria forever is anything but “noncontroversial.”
Groups advocating for peace and diplomacy object to Engel's Syria sanctions bill on its contents, object to the implied opposition to U.S. withdrawal from Syria, object to the proposed consideration under fast-track procedures reserved for non-controversial bills, and object to this bill being the first major foreign policy vote of the new House.
When Florida Republican Marco Rubio pushed this Syria sanctions bill as part of the first bill in the new Senate, Defense News reported:
‘Some Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have agreed with Trump in substance [on withdrawing from Syria], but [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell fast-tracked GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act,” signaling displeasure with the president’s Syria withdrawal pronouncement.’
Thus, Engel is trying to do in the House exactly what McConnell was trying to do in the Senate: fast-track a bill in opposition to U.S. withdrawal from Syria.
The Friends Committee on National Legislation says:
“FCNL opposed the original draft of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act [the Rubio-Engel Syria-Iran-Russia sanctions bill] in 2017. Since that time, important changes to the legislation have been made, but our core concerns remain the same. In light of President Trump’s recent decision to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, support for this bill is widely being interpreted as an appeal for continued military involvement.
This legislation merits careful and serious consideration and, given that there are 101 new elected representatives in Congress, we are particularly concerned that the House plans to consider it through a fast-track procedure used to quickly pass non-controversial bills.
The 116th Congress should use the first foreign policy vehicle of the year as an opportunity to put forward a new and visionary approach for how America should engage the world. Yet instead of moving forward constructive proposals for resolving the greatest humanitarian crises of our times, both chambers are prioritizing ‘more of the same’— piling on more sanctions with no clear path for unraveling them or even for altering the behavior of those targeted by these sanctions. We urge Congress to rethink this approach and provide full and open consideration of this legislation.”
The conservative-realist defense policy group Defense Priorities notes that the Syria-Russia-Iran sanctions of the Rubio-Engel bill “are not strategically connected to reasonable ends. They won’t reduce Iranian or Russian influence: Isolating and weakening Damascus pushes Syria into their arms … Punishment for punishment’s sake? What does that accomplish for Americans?”
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