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Congress Makes Bipartisan Effort To Impose Tougher Sanctions On Turkey


Joining us now is NPR political reporter Tim Mak. He's been covering the debate on Capitol Hill about the president's change in U.S. policy in the Middle East. Tim, what is the timetable for congressional action to attempt to reverse the president's policies?

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Well, the timetable is an interesting question because the fear that Kinzinger and other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, they're expressing a fear that even fast Congressional action may be too late. A lot of members of Congress feel like what has unfolded is already a disaster, and it's too late to stop the developments on the ground. They're instead trying to punish what they see as bad conduct in the form of sanctions. So there are multiple efforts in the House and Senate right now to produce sanctions that will impact the Turkish economy. There's bipartisan Senate legislation that Senators Lindsey Graham and Senator Van Hollen will be introducing tomorrow. But the key person here is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and whether he will allow a vote on sanctions legislation and, if so, when. There's a clue, though. Twice this week, Senator McConnell has alluded to there being a supermajority in the Senate that opposes the president's policy in Syria. So, theoretically, they could pass legislation over the president's objections.

CORNISH: Do lawmakers hold out any hope for Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who are in Turkey on Trump's behalf?

MAK: Yeah. So the best thing that they're hoping for right now is a cease-fire. Many lawmakers are wondering, hey, what chips does the United States hold right now to negotiate with? There certainly is not, like Congressman Kinzinger said, not an option for the United States to go in and retake these areas where Turkey is now conducting an offensive. Senator McConnell, even before he went to this meeting at the White House today on Turkey, was publicly saying that he hoped that the offensive could be stopped. He sounded almost apologetic and expressed his gratitude for the Kurds, saying that they were great fighters and we, quote, had "a terrific alliance" with them.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tim Mak.

Tim, thank you.

MAK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.