Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today went to the Senate floor to make a unanimous consent request to immediately pass H.J.Res. 77, a bipartisan, bicameral House-passed resolution opposing President Trump’s recent decision on Syria. Senate Republican Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked this resolution, which passed the House yesterday 354-60 with the support of House Republican leadership and the overwhelming majority of House Republicans, blocking this critical resolution that rejects President Trump’s dangerous actions in Syria and calls on President Trump to support Kurdish communities, to work to ensure that the Turkish military acts with restraint, and to present a clear strategy to defeat ISIS.
Below are Leader Schumer’s remarks, which can also be found here.
“We have a crisis here in this world and here in America. Because of the president’s precipitous action to take a small number of American troops out of Northern Syria and greenlight Erdogan’s invasion, we are in real trouble. We’re in trouble in a whole lot of ways.
Most importantly, we in New York know that a small group of bad people can cause terrorism with huge loss of life even when they’re 7,000 miles away. There are about 70,000 ISIS prisoners and their families now being guarded by the Kurds. But because of the president’s action, they will no longer be guarded. When we went to the White House yesterday and asked the president and his military folks, what’s the plan to prevent these ISIS would-be-terrorists from escaping? They didn’t have one. They didn’t have one.
Because the Kurds have left and the only people who might guard them are the Syrians or the Turks. And neither of them have a great interest in stopping ISIS. In fact, I asked the Defense Secretary, Secretary Esper, is there any intelligence that shows that either the Syrians or the Turks would do a good job at guarding the ISIS prisoners and prevent them from escaping? No. There was no intelligence to that effect. And so, as a result, ISIS prisoners are escaping, will continue to escape, and America will pay an awful price. An awful price. The Kurds will pay an awful price. They have fought alongside our soldiers. They’re our partners.
I talked to my friend from Kentucky, he said the Kurds are better off with the Syrians. Well the Kurds sure don’t think so. They’d rather be back to the status quo. Talk to their leaders. And certainly America will not be better off, at all, with ISIS prisoners escaping.
Who did this? The president. The president’s incompetence has put American lives in danger. Simply, starkly put, but accurate. In New York, as I said, we know well how a small group of fanatics half a world away can do incredible damage and kill thousands of Americans, here, on our soil.
It should shake every member of this body, regardless of their ideology, regardless of their views on Turkey, that the president made this decision so abruptly, without heeding the advice of our commanders on the ground, and now has no plan to manage the consequences. After meeting with the President yesterday, it was clear to both Democrats and Republicans in the room that he does not grasp the gravity of the situation. He doesn’t understand it.
The most important thing we can do right now is send President Trump a message that Congress, the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans, demand he reverse course. And I’m asking as unanimous consent not to go through a long, regular process because the bottom line is, the longer we wait, the more Kurds will die—our partners—more ISIS prisoners will escape, and the greater danger, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, America falls into. So we should move this resolution.
We need unanimous consent. I spoke to my good friend from Kentucky. He said he wanted to put a resolution on the floor about military aid to Turkey, something many on my side would be sympathetic to, and I offered him the ability to move his resolution (we have to of course get permission from our members but I would work for that) in return for us moving our resolution. He still said no. He still said no. I think that is a horrible decision. I think it could well risk the lives of Americans down the road. I think it will certainly risk the lives of many more Kurds, who are our allies.
We will return to this issue. I wish we could pass it now. The same bill that passed the House with a vast majority of Republicans, 2-to-1, with Leaders McCarthy and Scalise and Cheney voting for it. I understand the motivations of my friend from Kentucky are sincere and real. He’s had these position consistently. They are not the positions of the majority on his side or on our side on many issues, but I think it is so wrong not to move forward. It is so wrong to let the man both Democrats and Republicans saw in the White House yesterday stay in control of this situation without pressuring him to do better.
There is no better, quicker, or more powerful way to pressure the president to undo the damage he’s caused than to pass a bipartisan, joint resolution that will go directly to his desk. We will come back to this issue. It will not go away. It cannot go away. For the safety of America, for the safety of the Kurds, for some degree of stability not chaos in the Middle East that President Trump precipitously caused.
So I plead with my colleague from Kentucky and anyone else who might object to let us have the vote. Let us make our arguments and prevail. We’re willing to do debate time. Let us not say it has to be my way or the highway when so many lives are at risk.
I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar 246, H.J.Res. 77, that the joint resolution be read a third time and the Senate vote on passage with no intervening action or debate.”