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Bipartisan Bill Would Require Senate Approval for Trump to Withdraw from NATO

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, second left, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and President Donald Trump stand prior to a family picture at NATO headquarters in Brussels on July 11, 2018. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill was introduced Thursday to block President Trump from withdrawing from NATO without the approval of the Senate first.

The resolution introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) formalizes “congressional opposition to any withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty, requiring the advice and consent of the Senate to modify or terminate the North Atlantic Treaty, and authorizing litigation to advance the Senate’s constitutional authority.”

The bill notes that the president “is constitutionally required to seek the advice and consent of the Senate in order to enter into a treaty on behalf of the United States and must therefore seek the advice and consent of the Senate to withdraw from a treaty.”

It adds that two-thirds of the Senate would have to approve any withdrawal from NATO.

The resolution follows this month’s tense NATO summit in Brussels, after which Trump said he had successfully pushed member states to increase their defense spending beyond previously agreement levels, but French President Emmanuel Macron said there was no agreement beyond the 2014 summit increase. Trump also called the European Union a “foe” before heading to the summit.

Kaine noted in introducing the bill that “more than 1,100 soldiers from NATO countries have been killed in Afghanistan since 9/11.”

“Yet President Trump calls these nations our foes and disparages their leaders while he cozies up with our adversaries,” he said. “The shared threats we and our partners face from Russia, terrorists, cyber-attacks, and nuclear weapons make NATO more important than ever. Just as it was required to join NATO, Senate approval should be required before this president – or any U.S. president – can withdraw.”

Gardner emphasized that “NATO is the most successful military alliance in history, and any effort to abandon it would be a monumental mistake.”

“I support the United States’ continued commitment to the alliance, including the provisions that require the armed support of all members in case of an attack on any one member, as was exercised after the 9/11 attack against the United States,” the Colorado Republican said. “As the Constitution requires and this legislation reaffirms, any change proposed by this administration or future administrations regarding America’s standing in this alliance can be done only with the advice and consent of the Senate.”

Gardner introduced a bill earlier this month to list Russia among Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. The co-sponsors are Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).

In a 97-2 vote earlier this month, the Senate reaffirmed its support for NATO. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) dissented.

McCain said the new resolution is needed because “regrettably, President Trump’s mistreatment of our closest allies has raised doubts about America’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance and the values of defense.”