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Chris Murphy Wants Vote to Ban Ground Combat in Iraq and Syria

Murphy is pushing to bar ground combat forces from engaging in Iraq and Syria as insurance in case a Republican wins the White House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy wants to ensure U.S. ground forces aren't sent back into combat in Iraq and Syria in the event a Republican wins the White House next year.  

The Connecticut Democrat told CQ Roll Call he was preparing amendments to both the National Defense Authorization Act pending on the Senate floor and the State Department authorization that's set to be considered Tuesday afternoon by the Foreign Relations Committee to block ground forces in combat roles.  

"I have no doubt that President Obama will stick to his word and keep combat troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Republican presidential candidates seem pretty clear that their intention is to seriously consider [putting] combat troops back in the Middle East," Murphy said in an interview. "Whether it's, you know, Lindsey Graham or Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, they are all very open to putting combat troops back into the Middle East in large numbers. That's why this limitation is incredibly important. I don't think it will change much over the next year-and-a-half, but if there's a Republican president sitting in the White House next, we need to make sure that we don't repeat the mistakes of the Iraq War."  

Murphy's amendment has been drafted to both the defense policy bill and to a bid by Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to attach an authorization for the use of military force  against ISIS to the State Department authorization that the Foreign Relations panel is set to consider Tuesday afternoon.  

Murphy noted that even the White House's draft use of force authorization from February included a proposal to restrict the use of ground forces, though he did not view that language as going far enough, particularly in the event of a GOP administration in 2017.  

"I think it's clear that the neoconservatives are ascendant within the Republican party," Murphy said. "As Democrats, we have to have a coherent, thoughtful, progressive foreign policy vision."  

"Right now ... we largely just follow the president, but we've got to have some principles that we stand for as well, especially when the neoconservative voice within the Republican caucus is stronger now than at any time since the beginning of the Iraq War," he added.  

Murphy formally endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's White House bid last week.  

"I'm ... confident that she understands, better than any other candidate, how a balanced approach between hard and soft power is the best way to protect America from developing threats overseas. Hillary is a fighter — and that's what our country and families in Connecticut need right now," Murphy said in his statement.  

On Monday, Foreign Policy published an opinion essay by Murphy and Democratic Senate colleagues Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Brian Schatz of Hawaii. The three lawmakers outlined what they view as keys to a progressive vision for foreign policy, something that Murphy has previously discussed.  

"Congress can no longer stand idly by, simply reacting to world events. It should reclaim its constitutional prerogative and work with the White House to shape foreign policy," the senators wrote. "Americans want the United States to lead and be engaged in the world, but are wary of overzealous intervention and want to see a coherent, proactive vision for how America will lead and when we will act."  

In the Tuesday interview, Murphy said the timing of the release of the opinion piece was coincidental to the Senate's debates on State and Defense authorization measures, but that his proposal was part and parcel to that perspective.  

"This amendment fits into the vision that I articulated with Heinrich and Schatz," Murphy said. "You don't go in to the Middle East with a military strategy if you don't also have a political strategy on the ground. And right now, we don't have a political strategy that would justify the massive insertion of American troops."  

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