Pa. congressional delegation briefly crossed party lines to scold Trump on Syria |
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Pa. congressional delegation briefly crossed party lines to scold Trump on Syria

Deb Erdley

Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation had a rare moment of near unity this week when members came together to vote 354-60 to condemn President Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from Syria.

The 18-member delegation, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, largely ignored the partisan divide that has polarized the nation. They voted 16-2 in favor of a scathing House resolution condemning Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria and calling for the White House to present a “clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, the dean of the Pennsylvania delegation with 24 years in Congress, said he was encouraged to see members who have been deeply divided over the ongoing impeachment inquiry stand together against the withdrawal that left U.S. Kurdish allies to stand alone in the face of the Turkish army.

“Support for the resolution was overwhelming and bipartisan because President Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria was so clearly contrary to our national interest. It’s a relief to see that Republican members of Congress will oppose something President Trump does when it’s egregiously bad for the country. I hope it’s a sign that Congressional Republicans are starting to recognize the danger posed by many of President Trump’s policies and actions,” Doyle said.

In Western Pennsylvania, Democrat Conor Lamb, D-Mt.Lebanon, and Republicans Mike Kelly, R-Butler, and Guy Reschenthaler, R-Peters, were among those supporting the resolution.

Pennsylvania freshman Republicans John Joyce of Hollidaysburg and Dan Meuser of Dallas were the only members to vote against the resolution.

Joyce represents portions of Westmoreland County in a sprawling district that extends to Chambersburg. He said in an email he believes “President Trump and his administration are holding Turkey accountable for its actions while protecting our men and women in uniform. … It is encouraging that Vice President (Mike) Pence and Secretary (Mike) Pompeo have reached an agreement for a cease-fire today. Our goal must always be to achieve peace through strength.”

The cease-fire deal announced Thursday requires Kurdish fighters to vacate northern Syria.

Moreover, responses from two Western Pennsylvania Republicans who typically support Trump but voted for the resolution, suggested Doyle’s visions of Republican support for initiatives in opposition to the president may not hold up.

Kelly and Reschenthaler cited the fallout from President Barack Obama’s hasty withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 as deciding factors in their decision to support the resolution condemning Trump’s move.

Reschenthaler, a freshman lawmaker whose district includes portions of Westmoreland County, touts his experience as a naval officer in Iraq and frequently speaks out in support of Trump. He cited Turkey, not Trump, when asked about his vote in favor of the resolution.

“This resolution was necessary because of Turkey’s brash assault on our Kurdish allies, which brought instability to Syria and laid the groundwork for ISIS to regain strength and a foothold in the region,” he said in an email Thursday. “I applaud the Trump administration … for negotiating the newly announced cease-fire with Turkey. I look forward to working with the Trump administration to reach a lasting and peaceful solution in the region.”

When asked about the resolution, Kelly, now in his fifth term, likewise praised Trump for his foreign policy in the Middle East.

“Middle East peace politics are complex, and U.S. policy changes have wide-reaching effect. For example, when President Obama hastily pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS grew out of the ashes to institute a reign of terror and chaos. President Trump successfully cleaned up that mess,” Kelly said. “While I fully support his goal to bring our troops home from what has become endless deployments in foreign lands, we cannot repeat previous mistakes and let ISIS regain a foothold in Syria.”

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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