Defense News reports:
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday evening that seeks to bar President Donald Trump from withdrawing from NATO amid renewed concerns over his commitment to the 29-nation military pact.
In a bipartisan 357-22 vote, the Democrat-led lower chamber sent the Senate the NATO Support Act, which would prohibit the use of federal funds to withdraw from the 70-year-old alliance. Twenty-two Republicans voted no, while 28 Republicans and 26 Democrats did not vote.
Beyond asserting Congress’ power of the purse, the bill affirms support for NATO and its mutual defense clause, for Montenegro’s accession, for “robust” U.S. funding for the European Deterrence Initiative and for the goal that each member nation spend at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense by 2024.
Among the 22 Republicans who voted against this measure was Congressman Ben Cline. Every Democrat who voted supported it.
Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., sponsored the bill with backing from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. At a press conference Tuesday, the lawmakers praised the alliance for its role in ending the Cold War and in supporting U.S.-led operations in Iraq and Afghanistan today.
“What we have to realize is that NATO is not just a transactional relationship.” Panetta said. “Our sole 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.”
Engel called splintering the NATO alliance one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top goals.
“That’s why its so disturbing, so troubling to see the United States sending mixed signals about the alliance or treating it as a burden,” Engel said.
“This bill reiterates Congress’ commitment to NATO and would prohibit withdrawal from NATO. It sends a clear message to the administration that this branch of government supports the alliance,” Engel said in a floor speech ahead of the vote.
Trump has bashed the alliance over burden sharing, made overtures to Putin and said he believes he has the authority to pull out of NATO if he chooses — even as his administration has worked to support the alliance.
The bill had four Republican cosponsors, including Texas Rep. Will Hurd, who tweeted after the vote, “These recent votes show that there is overwhelming bipartisan support from Congress, a coequal branch of government, to value our allies and stand up to our enemies.”
Since Cline offers no explanation for his vote on his website, his Facebook page or his Twitter account, it’s impossible to know his reasons for voting as he did. Is he so anxious to affirm his loyalty to President Trump that he feels it necessary to oppose anything that might be seen as a challenge to Trump’s positions– no matter how wrong-headed and potentially dangerous those positions might be?
Please read Marine Corps veteran Mike Stolarz’s response on Facebook.