WASHINGTON – Since the 1950s, when Senator Arthur Vandenberg declared that “politics stops at the water’s edge,” the giants of Congress have been important partners in U.S. foreign policy, not must be “the men” to the presidents who were the co-architects of Pax Americana and the post-World War II order.
But spiral Ukraine conflict pointed out how far the power of Congress in the area of foreign policy has diminished since the death of Senator John McCain, the fact that Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. leaving Capitol Hill and going to the White House, and the rise of a partisan brand beyond the water’s edge.
This week, many loud voices have emerged urging President Biden to take strong action to counter Russian aggression. But other lawmakers have used the crisis for partisan gain, accusing the president and blaming the Biden administration for President Vladimir V. Putin’s assault on his neighbor.
Perhaps more telling is the relative silence, from both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, who are troubled by divisions within their ranks and seem content to let the House White takes the lead, whether in credit or blame.
“Congress will be prepared to take further action, if additional action is needed,” Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House majority leader, said Tuesday afternoon, summarizing the hands of many. his colleague.
Such caution is consistent with the reluctance of the legislative branch to challenge the president’s expanded powers abroad.
Casey Burgat, director of the legislative affairs program at George Washington University, said: “When you put your name next to an action, you get judged for it, and Congress is full of people. risk averse. research on Congress and foreign policy. “Foreign policy is a minefield of unintended consequences. It’s hard to put your name next to something when you don’t know how it ends.”
After a month of trying and failing to reach a consensus, senators from both parties returned to work Tuesday on a diverse legislative response to Russia’s aggression aimed at providing emergency funding. for Ukraine’s defense, weakening Moscow’s economy, and creating a new task force to find ways to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs, and possibly Mr. Putin’s own wealth.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said an emergency spending bill and bipartisan sanctions law – long delayed in Congress – could pass when lawmakers return to Congress. back after the President’s Day break.
“I want a punishment regime from hell next week,” he told reporters at a news conference in South Carolina.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat of Connecticut, said the talks began Monday night and got heated on Tuesday, after the senators argued fruitlessly over the past month about the size, shape, and duration of a measure that imposes legal sanctions.
This spending bill would increase lethal aid to Ukraine, help the Department of Defense fund the deployment of troops to NATO countries to the north and west of Ukraine, and prepare Ukraine’s neighbors. for refugees. The sanctions bill targets wealthy oligarchs who have backed Putin’s government by sending their children to schools in the West and their money on yachts in European ports and apartments. luxury in London and Manhattan.
“There is consensus among Democrats and Republicans that one of the soft bases in Putin’s world is the lavish lifestyle of the oligarchs he favors to stay in power,” Graham said. for him”. But he also warned the broader Russian public, “You can expect bad things to happen to you.”
Mr. Blumenthal said Germany’s action on Monday to halting work on a major natural gas pipeline from Russia to Western Europe removed the biggest crux of a sanctions bill. Some Republicans have been furious about the sanctions crippling the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but the Biden administration strongly opposes such action until a Russian attack, fearing it. would split the transatlantic alliance and hurt NATO’s unity in the face of an invasion.
But a month ago, Mr. Blumenthal was among a group of senators who vowed that a bipartisan vote on sanctions against Russia would take place within a week or two, to demonstrate unity and determination. of the United States — and marginalize far-right voices who are questioning America’s interests in the conflict or, worse, leaning toward Putin.
“I’m very disappointed, frankly, that we couldn’t get together,” Blumenthal said on Tuesday.
There is no guarantee that unity is now within reach. Foreign policy has become a graveyard for legislative ambitions. Repeated attempts to repeal or amend the military force authorizations adopted in 2001 and 2002 have failed. Republican efforts to reshape or cancel President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran have been unsuccessful. Democrats’ efforts to block President Donald J. Trump’s “emergency” arms sales to the Middle East have also been fruitless.
The expanding power of an imperial president has been largely greeted by the inaction of the legislative branch.
But the current crisis could be different, said Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat of Virginia, who has worked ineffectively for nine years to reassert Congress’ authority to declare war. Mr. Biden has broad authority to impose crippling sanctions on his own, but in some areas, such as cutting off Russia from international banking computer system called SwiftCongress may need to legislate. And after talking bitterly for a long time, lawmakers will want to show that they can come together.
“Congress would rather not act if it’s not necessary, and would rather leave it to the president if there’s a credible way to do it,” Kaine said. “But at this point, there’s no reliable way to do it.”
Mr. Graham, an outspoken ally of Mr. Trump, said on Tuesday, as many of his Republican colleagues in the Biden administration said: “We have one president at a time. President Biden is the president of the United States, and I will do as much as I can to help him repel Putin.”
But other Republicans were less courteous.
“Joe Biden has refused to take meaningful actions and his weakness has encouraged Moscow,” Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, said in a statement Tuesday. , echoed Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, who wrote Monday, “Biden- Harris officials are to a great extent directly responsible for this crisis. “
The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives even grabbed a photo of Mr. Biden’s back when he left the East Room of the White House after announced the latest round of sanctionsand declared, “This is the weak point on the world stage.”
Mark Salter, a longtime aide, adviser and McCain biographer, said: Criticism is nothing new. The senator, who died of brain cancer in 2018, was able to advance foreign and military policy from Capitol Hill through the sheer power of personality. He may be harshly critical of presidents of both parties, but he is consistent in his advocacy of a strong transatlantic coalition to confront authoritarianism.
Mr. Salter says that consistency itself is fading and that cheap, attention-grabbing photos aren’t helpful. Republicans, who were silent as Mr. Trump waged a sustained attack on NATO and leaned toward Mr. Putin, now talk about Mr. Biden’s weakness for Russia. Leaders have failed to condemn isolationist voices in the party such as Trump himself and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who questioned on Twitter: “What drives men? our 18-year-old grandfather drooled to pieces during the war?”
“It is the strongest peace force; We can use it on our southern border,” Trump said, adding: “There are more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They will keep the peace. “
Those sentiments were light years from the international coalition that Vandenberg, a Michigan Republican, assembled to support the postwar Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe, the creation of NATO and its allies. mutual defense agreement through the United Nations.
“Even in the glory days of ‘politics at the edge of the water’, if that ever existed, there has always been political opportunism,” Mr. Salter said. “It’s disgusting at the moment.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/us/politics/congress-ukraine-russia.html Once a Foreign Policy Partner, the National Assembly fights for unity in Ukraine