WASHINGTON – The Republican-led Senate is poised to approve legislation Tuesday that includes a sharp rebuke of President Donald Trump’s planned withdrawal of American troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
The bill also includes a controversial provision that would allow local governments to penalize businesses or individuals engaged in anti-Israel boycotts.
Supporters of the boycott provision said it’s needed to protect Israel from “economic warfare” waged by liberal groups against America’s closest ally. Detractors said it’s a violation of free speech against individuals engaged in a peaceful protest against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill – the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act – on Tuesday afternoon, before Trump’s State of the Union speech.
In his remarks Tuesday night, Trump is likely to highlight his planned drawdown of U.S. forces in the Middle East and call for an end to "endless foreign wars," according a senior administration official speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the president’s planned remarks.
Trump announced his decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria in December, declaring on Twitter that the Islamic State had been defeated. Trump is considering a major reduction of troops in Afghanistan.
Lawmakers in both parties expressed alarm at Trump’s plans, saying that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has not been defeated and that troop withdrawals would allow extremist groups to regroup and re-emerge as a pernicious global threat. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. – who has been reluctant to criticize Trump – sponsored the provision opposing Trump’s withdrawal plan.
McConnell’s measure warns that a “precipitous withdrawal of United States forces” from either Syria or Afghanistan “could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security.” It’s nonbinding but highlights a growing public rift between hawkish congressional Republicans and Trump.
The Senate adopted McConnell’s resolution as an amendment to the broader Middle East bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. The underlying bill would authorize new sanctions against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and extend a security cooperation agreement between the United States and Jordan, among other things.
It's fate in the House is unclear. Democrats are divided over the Israel boycott provision – centrist lawmakers embraced the measure, and liberals are sharply opposed.
Contributing: John Fritze and David Jackson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senate poised to pass bill rebuking President Trump's planned troop withdrawals from Syria, Afghanistan