House overwhelmingly votes bipartisan condemnation of Trump withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria

The debate in Congress on the issue is extraordinary for the intensity of lawmakers' opinions.
Image: President Trump Departs White House For Louisiana
"If Syria wants to fight to take back their land, that's up to them and Turkey," President Trump said Wednesday.Zach Gibson / Bloomberg via Getty Images

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to condemn President Donald Trump's withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria.

Despite stark divisions over Democrats' Trump impeachment inquiry, Democrats and Republicans banded together and approved a nonbinding resolution by 354-60 vote.

The resolution states Congress' opposition to the troop pullback and says Turkey should cease its military action in Syria. And the measure says the White House should present a plan for an "enduring defeat" of the Islamic State group.

The House debate was extraordinary for the intensity of lawmakers' opinions.

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Republicans called the troop withdrawal "disastrous" and a "catastrophe." Democrats criticized Trump directly, with Rep. Seth Moulton saying Trump "has taken the side of dictators and butchers."

Among senators, Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's closest allies, said Trump's decision will allow IS to reemerge and added that the president will "be held accountable."

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Graham said Trump's decision "is against all sound military advice" and that he hopes Trump "will reconsider, stop the bloodshed and reset the table before it's too late."

Graham says that if Trump continues along those lines, "then our foreign policy is in a very bad spot in the Middle East and to those who think the Mideast doesn't matter to America, remember 9/11 we had that same attitude on 9/10 2001."

GOP Leader Mitch McConnell called the U.S.-Kurd partnership "a terrific alliance" that set the Islamic State group back and said he is "sorry we are where we are."

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "has not been a reliable ally. The Kurds have been a reliable ally."

Another Republican senator, Florida's Marco Rubio, told reporters that he doesn't know what can be done to undo the harm that's resulted from the withdrawal.

Rubio said that "there are some mistakes that are not easy to reverse. And there are some that are irreversible."

For his part, Trump said U.S. troops are "largely out" of a region of Syria where Turkish forces are attacking Kurdish fighters.

Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters allied with the U.S. after Trump pulled troops from the region this month.

As he met Wednesday with Italy's president, Trump said: "If Syria wants to fight to take back their land, that's up to them and Turkey."

Trump adds: "There's a lot of sand that they can play with."

But as Trump defended removing troops from northeastern Syria, he's also talking up his recent decision to send more troops to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom defend against Iran.

Trump said the U.S. is sending missiles and "great power" to the Saudis, and added: "They're paying for that."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said the White House has canceled a classified briefing about Syria for House members.

The California Democrat says scrapping the meeting prevents Congress from learning about "the dangerous situation" caused by President Donald Trump's withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria.

Pelosi said she's "deeply concerned" because lawmakers have a right to be informed about such decisions.

A Democratic congressional aide says the White House said it couldn't provide administration officials to conduct Thursday's planned briefing.

Two Senate aides say a classified briefing for senators was also canceled. One aide says it's because key administration officials were traveling to Turkey. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.