Congress Has Abdicated Its Role on Foreign Policy

I have to admit to a fair amount of eye-rolling when liberals insisted that Congress get involved in approving a new Authorization For the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS or when they take a stand against fast-tracking trade authority on things like the Trans Pacific Partnership. Of course I have the same reaction to conservatives who insist that Congress weigh in if/when a deal is negotiated on Iran’s nuclear program.

In a world where Congress can actually function, those demands would make sense. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we currently live in. Case in point: the ISIS AUMF.

More than a month after the White House sought Congress’ blessing for the expanding war against the terrorist group, congressional action has gotten bogged down in partisan rancor and divergent viewpoints over what the war should try to accomplish, how long the administration should be authorized to wage it, and what level of force will be required. Some say that the liberals who insisted the White House include extra conditions, such as a deadline and limits on ground troops, overplayed their hand, undercutting potential Republican support.

“I just don’t hear many people standing up for what the president has proposed, so I think we’re kind of moving beyond that,” the panel’s chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), told reporters Wednesday.

Neither side gets a pass here. The Republicans insisted that President Obama’s proposal wasn’t “tough enough.” But Thronberry is right – a lot of Democrats didn’t like it either. As Steve Benen put it:

…some lawmakers believe the draft resolution sent to Congress by President Obama goes too far, while some believe it doesn’t go far enough.

I don’t mean to suggest that I take this lightly, but the first thing I thought of when I read that was the story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Essentially what we have is a group of people playing small-ball with their ideologies and special interests. And its nothing but a food fight. Meanwhile, someone has to be an adult and take charge. That task has been left to President Obama.

Over the long term, that’s a pretty big problem for our democratic institutions. But right now I don’t see a reasonable alternative.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.