House passes bill expressing support for NATO

THE HILL, JULIEGRACE BRUFKE

The House passed bipartisan legislation on Tuesday expressing congressional support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The bill, which passed in a 357-22 vote, includes a provision rejecting any efforts made by President Trump to potentially withdraw from the treaty. All the “no” votes were from conservative Republicans.

Its passage comes days after administration aides told The New York Times that Trump has repeatedly floated pulling out of NATO over the course of the past year – a move critics fear would embolden Russia and threaten strategic international military alliances.

The House-passed measure, spearheaded by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), would bar any funds from being used to withdraw from the alliance.

“This bill makes it clear the United States Congress still believes in the NATO mission and will prevent any short-sighted efforts to undermine the NATO or unilaterally withdrawal our country,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday, highlighting the alliance’s role in the peaceful end to the Cold War.

The legislation also includes language calling on NATO members to meet their commitment of providing at least 2 percent of their GDP for defense spending, which was agreed upon in the 2014 Wales Defense Investment Pledge. It also promotes “robust funding for the European Deterrence Initiative to counter Russian aggression.”

“You know, all of us up here agree that we can continue to pressure our NATO allies to pay their self-stated goal of 2 percent of their GDP to the alliance. But that doesn’t mean that we want to get out of here,” Panetta told reporters head of the vote.

“In fact, that would be a historic mistake. Because what we have to realize is that NATO is not just a transactional relationship,” he said, adding that the focus “can’t just be on who pays what and who gets what. Being a member of NATO is not like being a member of a country club.”

Panetta stressed that it is critical for the U.S. to remain in the alliance to help deter Russian aggression. He said other countries can work with the U.S. to prepare not only for the possibility of conventional war, but to “also push back against Russia’s constant use of hybrid warfare.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) cosponsored the legislation along with Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.).

Lawmakers who voted against the measure Tuesday included GOP Reps. Rick Allen (Ga.), Justin Amash (Mich.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Tim Burchett (Tenn.), Ben Cline (Va.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Russ Fulcher (Ind.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Morgan Griffith (Va.), Andy Harris (Md.), Jody Hice (Ga.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Mark Meadows (N.C.), Scott Perry (Pa.), John Rose (Tenn.), Chip Roy (Texas), Greg Steube (Fla.) and Randy Weber (Texas).

The House isn’t the only chamber taking action to deter the administration from pulling out of NATO. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate recently reintroduced legislation aimed at preventing the commander-in-chief from withdrawing from the alliance without the approval of the upper chamber.

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