Perry breaks with Freedom Caucus over vote to condemn Syria withdrawal

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
A Syrian girl who is newly displaced by the Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria, weeps as she sits in a bus upon her arrival at the Bardarash camp, north of Mosul, Iraq, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. The camp used to host Iraqis displaced from Mosul during the fight against the Islamic State group and was closed two years ago. The U.N. says more around 160,000 Syrians have been displaced since the Turkish operation started last week, most of them internally in Syria.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry on Wednesday broke with other House Freedom Caucus members by voting for a resolution condemning President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria.

But in a Thursday statement, the Carroll Township Republican failed to directly criticize the president.

The U.S. House on Wednesday, Oct. 16, voted 354-60 to condemn Trump's move that has subjected Kurds in the region to deadly attacks from Turkey. The vote marked a bipartisan — but mostly symbolic  — rebuke of the president's decision.

"Given the untenable situation of our Troops being caught between two warring factions, the President made the best decision he could under the circumstances for the sake of our Troops," Perry said in a statement. "We condemn Erdogan’s actions, but we remain extremely concerned about remaining ISIS fighters in the area and their ability to reconstitute.”

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Perry's vote, if not his statement, also appeared to break from his own comments last week when he stated that, although he didn't like the appearance of the U.S. abandoning an ally, the withdrawal was important to ensure more American lives weren't lost in the region.

Republican lawmakers, from left, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Lee Zeldin R-N.Y., arrive Monday for a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, has been more consistent in his messaging. Leading up to the vote on Wednesday, the Republican had already condemned Trump's decisions in a tweetstorm calling for the president to reverse his decision.

"The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria, and we should not be turning our backs on them," Smucker wrote. "President Trump should immediately reverse his decision."

Vice President Mike Pence met Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and argued for a ceasefire in northern Syria. A day  earlier, Trump undercut Pence's mission, though, when he said the Kurds weren't "angels." 

Even so, on Thursday, Pence announced a temporary cease-fire agreement had been reached a week after Turkish forces started the offensive. 

Turkey's assault has led to thousands of refugees attempting to flee the combat zone, according to the United Nations, and humanitarian aid agencies have warned that a half-million people are at risk.

Trump on Monday, Oct. 14, said he signed an executive order sanctioning Turkish officials while slapping a 50% tariff on Turkish steel and halting trade negotiations with the country to deter the attacks.

Critics said the actions weren't enough — Turkish steel represents just more than 1% of all steel bought by the U.S. as of this year — although Trump has said the efforts to deter Turkey's military operations are the "strongest you can imagine."

Republicans and Democrats in both chambers have drafted legislation that would target Turkey's energy sector and impose sanctions on a variety of Turkish officials.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., on Wednesday introduced legislation in the House. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., alsohave introduced similar legislation in the Senate. 

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