Perry votes against bill preventing Trump from leaving NATO

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
In this Oct. 6, 2018 photo, Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania speaks to a party committeeman at a rally with volunteer canvassers, in Harrisburg, Pa. A court-ordered redrawing of Pennsylvania's House districts has forced several Republican congressmen, including Perry, into more competitive seats and helped establish Pennsylvania as a key state for Democrats aiming to recapture the House majority. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

Rep. Scott Perry is one of just 22 House members who voted this week against a bill to prevent President Donald Trump from leaving NATO.

The U.S. House passed the NATO Support Act 357-22 on Tuesday, Jan. 22. It's now up to the Senate to decide whether  to restrict the president from leaving the military alliance composed of 29 countries.

Trump has been a critic of the 70-year-old organization, having called it "obsolete" in 2017, floating a possible departure and accusing members of not paying their fair share of defense funds — each member is required to put up 2 percent of their GDP.

If passed, the bill would reiterate the country's support of the alliance and prohibit the use of federal funds to withdraw from the group in charge of safeguarding allies' security by political and military means.

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Perry: In response to a request for a comment, Perry spokeswoman Brandy Brown referred The York Dispatch to a Thursday, Jan. 24, Facebook post in which the Carroll Township Republican explained his vote.

In his post, Perry identified what he believes are three problematic aspects of the legislation.

First, he wrote, the country's safety would be at risk because the measure lacks a clause allowing the president to respond to national or international emergencies.

Perry also pointed out that the bill would prevent the U.S. from ever leaving the alliance unless Congress voted to repeal the would-be law, even though other nations would be able to.

The final and most important reason for his vote, he wrote, is that the measure is "unconstitutional."

The congressman justified his claim by citing the separation of powers, stating the executive branch is responsible for international relations and treaties, and this bill would "attempt to supersede the Constitution and case law."

"Bottom line, if any president wants to negotiate better terms for the United States in NATO or is confronted with a deadly international situation, this bill would prevent him or her from acting," Perry wrote.

The congressman noted his previous support of NATO as "an invaluable asset to the security of western civilization for more than half a century.

"I supported legislation last Congress that affirmed my commitment to NATO without the constitutional issue and stand by that vote," he wrote. "The NATO Support Act was problematic for a number of reasons, which is why I didn't support it."

Freedom Caucus: Several of Perry's colleagues in the Freedom Caucus joined him in voting against the bill.

The invite-only group comprises an estimated 30 to 40 of Congress' most conservative members. It was created in 2015 and has since often functioned as a deep-red voting bloc that has historically battled with party leadership.

However, the caucus was split over the NATO bill, with eight confirmed members voting in support of the measure.

Perry's voting record often meshes with Trump's interests; he has voted with the president around 86 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight, a website focusing on opinion poll analysis, politics and economics.

Perry represents northern York County, part of Cumberland County and all of Dauphin County in the 10th District. 

Smucker: Rep. Lloyd Smucker, a Republican representing southern York County and Lancaster County in the 11th District, has voted with Trump roughly 95 percent of the time — but he still sided with the overwhelming majority in support of the NATO legislation.

In a statement, the congressman said he understands Trump's frustrations with other nation's funding commitments to NATO, but he doesn't support any efforts to withdraw from the alliance.

“For the last 70 years, NATO has proven the strength of an alliance between free nations," Smucker said. "While I agree with President Trump that other countries should meet their funding commitments to NATO, I don’t believe we should withdraw from the treaty. My vote simply reaffirmed the important commitment we made to our allies.“

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.