Thursday, July 27, 2017

Even GOP Congress Doesn't Trust Trump

Congress has now made it quite clear it doesn't trust President Donald Trump--and that includes Republicans as well as Democrats. The House voted 419-3 to toughen economic sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran. The Senate followed suit with a 98-2 vote, introduced by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn). What's especially noteworthy about these bills is an unprecedented clause that the president cannot unilaterally relax sanctions on his own. Instead, if he wants to do so, the bills give congress the authority to hold a vote within 30 days to reverse the president's decision. Read the details here

This is highly unusual. Most of the time sanctions are imposed when a foreign nation is found to be doing such things as violating international law or human rights, committing aggression or supporting terrorism. Presidents are routinely given the authority to roll back the sanctions following an executive branch finding that the offending nation has ceased its objectionable behavior. In this case Iran's violation is in supporting terrorism, North Korea's are its nuclear and missile development programs in defiance of U.N. resolutions and its treaty obligations, and Russia's include aggression against Ukraine and its meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

Corker and overwhelming supermajorities in both houses are extremely concerned Trump might relax sanctions, particularly against Russia, on his own. He continues to deny or minimize Russian election interference and praise Russian strongman and civil rights abuser Vladimir Putin. The margins of these votes are a clear signal to Trump that if he vetoes the bill congress has the votes to easily override him and pass the legislation with better than the two-thirds majority required by the constitution. That a Republican-majority congress would pass a bill so limiting a Republican president's ability to exercise a customary function speaks volumes about how little even the members of his own party trust this president to act in the national interest when it comes to foreign policy.     

No comments: