You don’t often see this in Washington: some of the most liberal candidates in the 2020 presidential field lining up with President Trump on foreign policy.
Every declared presidential candidate in the Senate, and three other senators who are considering running, voted on Tuesday against a bill that, among other things, condemns Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and Syria. (You can read more about the legislation here.)
The senators in question are:
• Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, all declared candidates.
• Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley and Bernie Sanders, who are eyeing the race.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, another Democrat who is widely expected to run for president, voted for the bill, as did Senator Michael Bennet, who is considering a run.
The measure passed the Senate, 77 to 23, and now goes to the House.
The bill has several parts, some controversial and some not, and the senators voting no were not necessarily doing so solely because of troop withdrawals. Mr. Brown, for instance, said he was concerned about the constitutionality of the bill’s other contentious provision, which would let state and local governments punish companies that boycott Israeli products.
Why it matters
For almost 15 years, since the Iraq war became an unpopular drag on President George W. Bush, Democrats have generally opposed extended military interventions in other nations. So it’s not surprising that most of the 2020 candidates would want to bring troops home from Afghanistan and Syria sooner rather than later.
The twist is that this is a rare issue on which, ideologically, Mr. Trump is more aligned with Democrats than Republicans — which creates an awkward political situation for the Democrats, who would not normally decline an opportunity to rebuke Mr. Trump.
But even under previous presidents, foreign policy has split Democrats, often painfully.
John Kerry famously had to walk that tightrope as the party’s presidential nominee in 2004, when an increasingly antiwar electorate denounced his previous support for the Iraq war. At one point, he said of a supplemental appropriation for the war, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” a line that allowed opponents to brand him as a “flip-flopper” and haunted him for the rest of the campaign.
Tuesday’s vote underscored how politically fraught issues of military force and funding still are, especially as the liberal wing of the Democratic Party gains strength.
What comes next
The bill now goes to the House, where the new Democratic majority is likely to pass only routine provisions such as renewed military aid for Israel and Jordan. Democrats are hardly eager to advance the troop withdrawal or anti-boycott provisions, both of which have exposed fissures within the party — and which Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member of the Democratic leadership, has called a “political stunt” by Republicans.
Even if the full bill were to pass the House, the troop withdrawal provision is nonbinding. It simply expresses Congress’s disapproval of Mr. Trump’s plans, and the president would then have to decide whether to buck his own party and bring troops home anyway.
Read more: NYT