Johnson and Stivers

U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson, left, and Steve Stivers. The districts of both Republican members of Congress include parts of Athens County.

Both members of Congress who represent Athens County broke with the White House Wednesday, voting in favor of a bipartisan resolution that formally rebukes President Trump for withdrawing American troops from northern Syria.

The two joined 58 other Republican members of Congress in opposing Trump on the Syria vote, including Ohio’s entire GOP delegation in Congress with the exception of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, the Columbus Dispatch reported Thursday. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, voted present.

The resolution prevailed 354 to 60, with 129 Republicans and all 225 Democrats voting in favor.

Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, represents the 15thDistrict, which includes most of Athens County. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, represents the 6th District, which includes part of eastern Athens County. Neither Stivers nor Johnson votes against the president very often, with Johnson being one of his most vocal and ardent supporters on Capitol Hill. According to the FiveThirtyEight website, Stivers has voted with the president 95.6 percent of the time and Johnson 97.9 percent.

In a Tweet on Wednesday, Stivers criticized Trump for pulling American forces back in northern Syria. “The chaos and violence that has resulted from this misguided decision is no way to repay our partners in the fight against ISIS,” Stivers, a brigadier general in the Ohio National Guard, wrote referring to the Kurds.

Last Wednesday, Oct. 9, Stivers issued an initial statement critical of Trump’s Syria policy after Turkey launched its offensive against the Kurds. “It is now clear that the presence of U.S. troops was a stabilizing force in Northern Syria. Within two days of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Turkish forces have read this decision as an invitation to launch offensive operations against our partners, the Kurdish forces. This could increase the flow of refugees into neighboring countries and create power vacuum that could allow ISIS to regroup,” Stivers said in a news release.

Rep. Johnson explained his yes vote on the congressional resolution rebuking President Trump on his Syria policy in a Facebook post early Wednesday evening.

“There is no doubt that President Trump inherited a really bad deal with the current situation in Syria…,” Johnson wrote. “Although I remain a strong supporter of the President, I do not agree with this decision to pull out a small number of forces from Syria along the Turkish border, endangering the Kurds and leaving an open question as to what will happen to thousands of captured ISIS fighters being held there. I worry that the tremendous progress made by President Trump’s Administration and the sacrifices made by our troops to destroy ISIS could be reversed by this move. Not to mention that America’s exit now creates a vacuum for other, not so friendly forces to fill... like Russia, Iran, or even a resurgent ISIS.”

Citing his own 26 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, Johnson said he understands that this country can’t be the “world’s policeman.”

However, he added, “…We must fight and eliminate threats to our way of life where they originate, before they come to America. I also don’t like the idea of us abandoning the Kurds who fought alongside our troops in defeating ISIS. There are always reasons to leave, and there are always reasons to stay. Weighing those factors, I voted to support this resolution.”

Rep. Johnson’s Facebook post prompted energetic commenting from both supporters and critics of his yes vote on the resolution rebuking Trump’s decision on Syria. Many of the critics echoed the president’s stated reasons for withdrawing troops from Syria, that U.S. troops were in danger for no good reason.

These two comments are typical of that reasoning:

• “I disagree (with Johnson’s explanation for voting yes on the resolution). If it were my son (deceased because of the Iraq war) over there with no one but his 49 brothers in arms to protect his back, I would want him to get out of there. Time and again our troops have been abandoned by their foreign fighters who turn on our boys when it comes to fight or run. 50 soldiers could not survive. They would be slaughtered all for an endless war not worthy of their blood.”

• “I disagree with you (Johnson) on this. We needed to pull our men and women back home and let their hundreds of years of wars alone. We are not the police of the world. This is not why are young people joined the military service. We do not belong there. The president did the right thing.”

Those who applauded Johnson’s vote mainly repeated his talking points, including this one:

“I support Trump, but as you do, I felt as though this was a very bad move. We should never have abandoned the Kurds, pitting two of our Allies against each other and making it look as though we chose one over the other. Especially for any economic reasons. Bad decision that may haunt us all.”

An example of Rep. Johnson’s usually supportive attitude toward President Trump came in this Facebook post early Tuesday evening:

“The House returns to Washington this week. Ideally, that should mean that we will be getting to work, debating and voting on important issues to improve the lives of the American people. Instead, Liberal Democrats will hold more secret hearings in the Capitol basement; release more selective, cherry-picked leaks designed to confuse the American people; and, continue their “guilty until proven innocent” sham impeachment of President Trump. The American people deserve better than Adam Schiff’s personal quest to overturn the results of the 2016 election.”

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