Congress

‘The dumbest f---ing idea I’ve ever heard’ and other highlights of the Senate’s European adventure

Senators have been traveling the globe this week, with many attending conferences in Europe

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., reportedly told the acting Defense secretary that pulling all troops from Syria by April 30 was “the dumbest f---ing idea I’ve heard .” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Over President’s Day weekend, it might have been easier to get a quorum of the U.S. Senate together in Europe than in Washington.

After adopting the conference report that funded the rest of the government for the balance of the fiscal year last week, senators quickly dispersed to their home states, or international destinations for key foreign policy meetings. More than a dozen senators stopped in Germany to meet with allies at the Munich Security Conference, as part of multiple congressional delegations.

Sen. Lindsey Graham led one of the CODELs, which was named after the late Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, who often headed up the Munich trips.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday morning that Graham, a South Carolina Republican, used expletives with acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. Graham dropped the f-bomb in a closed-door meeting with the U.S. delegation in Munich, during a conversation about a potential withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria by the end of April.

“That’s the dumbest f---ing idea I’ve ever heard,” Graham said, according to the Post.

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Sen. Robert Menendez, the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, led the trip along with Graham. The New Jersey Democrat then continued on to Brussels for a speech to the German Marshall Fund regarding support for NATO.

Menendez focused on legislation he and Graham have introduced that would seek to improve the ability of Europe and the U.S. to work on countering Russian malfeasance.

“As we speak, the Kremlin is working to destabilize Ukrainian politics in advance of next month’s presidential election. And Russian influence operations and malign efforts could destabilize upcoming European Parliament elections this year,” Menendez said.

“I think that we all understand the threat. But instead of moving forward with robust joint responses to Kremlin aggression, the U.S. and Europe are unfortunately spending more time and energy cleaning up messes after high-level summits and presidential visits,” he said. “With no real transatlantic strategy in place, we remain flat-footed while President [Vladimir] Putin charges ahead.”

Delaware Democrat Chris Coons went to London after participating in the security conference in Germany.

“I appreciate the unique political forces on both sides of the Atlantic — the rise of populism and nationalism to the distrust of institutions and the weariness towards foreign commitments,” he said in a speech to the Royal United Services Institute. “But that does not mean we should abandon the goals we have pursued together for seven decades and that have produced security and prosperity for our people.”

Coons also spoke about both Afghanistan and Syria.

“After so many years and so many lives, it is hard to credibly talk about ‘winning’ in either Syria or Afghanistan, but we can lose. And we can lose decisively. We can lose credibility with our core allies and partners if our withdrawal is done without proper consultation and done abruptly. We can lose the gains we have managed to make on the ground and in the lives of the people of both Syria and Afghanistan,” he said.

Other senators were traveling to other parts of the globe over the recess.

Florida Republican Marco Rubio, for instance, went to the border between Colombia and Venezuela to see the humanitarian crisis that’s been playing out there.

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