The recent debates in the House on the Defense Appropriations bill had many amendments related to nuclear weapons. Two particular amendments are examples of harmful and mindless interventions: One prohibited using funds in this bill to reduce nuclear forces to implement the already agreed to New Start Treaty.
The other prevented funds from being used to reduce strategic delivery systems in the New Start Treaty.
A ratified Treaty, that requires a super majority, is restricted by a voice vote majority in both instances. That re-argues a settled question with no empirical evidence to suggest the matter should be re-argued. Hopefully the Senate bill will eliminate these provisions.
On July 31 the House passed the Iran Nuclear Prevention Act. Now who can oppose that? The title of the bill leads to the size of the vote: 400-20. What makes it a mindless step is that it’s four days before Iran’s new leader Rouhani is inaugurated. His surprise election gives us hope for moderation. At least Rouhani should be tested before we add sanctions to our exiting array. What is encouraging is that 131 members, Democrats and Republicans, signed a letter calling for diplomacy that tests Rouhani. The only way legislation such as this can be stopped is if the Obama Administration undertakes vigorous and assertive diplomacy that learns whether steps can be taken through diplomatic means.
Mindlessness is not limited to the House. In May the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
approved a bill 15-3 that tells the President what he should do if he initiated military intervention in Syria by providing arms and other forms of aid. In a country filled with fighting among tribal, religious and ethnic groups, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with little or no expertise, shouldn’t be meddling.
Congress has its responsibilities. In our system it has to approve, reject or modify the President’s budget. The Senate has added responsibilities on approving Presidential appointees and giving “advice and consent” to treaties. Through it all the Congress has the power, and it needs the will, to approve, re-shape or reject foreign policy initiatives. That’s where its focus has to be.