Tag Archives: Senate

The Senate and the Politics of US Foreign Policy

An interesting exchange took place between Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today. Senator Rubio challenged Secretary Kerry on the question of Iran and how the US strategy in dealing with ISIS, and Secretary Kerry pushed back. The United States is currently engaged in negotiation with Iran in an effort to prevent it from securing a nuclear weapon. At the same time, the United States and Iran share a desire to weaken the position of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

US foreign policy on both questions were complicated earlier this week when 47 Republican Senators wrote an open letter to Iran’s hardline government warning them that any agreement with the United States would need to be approved by the Senate. Iran’s Foreign Minister dismissed the letter as a “propaganda ploy” while Vice President Joe Biden decried the letter as an attempt to “undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations” and “beneath the dignity [of the Senate].”

The most recent exchange between Secretary Kerry and Senator Rubio highlight the ongoing tensions between the Obama White House and the Republican-controlled Senate over US foreign policy, and suggest that foreign policy may be a central point of debate in the 2016 Presidential elections.

What do you think? Do recent efforts by Republican Senators to affect the outcome of US negotiations with Iran undermine the effectiveness of President Obama’s foreign policy initiatives? Has the Senate overstepped traditional boundaries in US foreign policy? Are the right to attempt to limit the White House’s autonomy in this area? And how would you address the situation if you were a Senator?

The Next US Secretary of Defense

Secretary of Defense nominee Ashton Carter.

Secretary of Defense nominee Ashton Carter.

President Obama has formally nominated Ashton Carter to succeed Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. While Carter still faces questioning and ultimately a confirmation vote by the Republican-controlled Senate, his nomination is widely seen as non-controversial. Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain has already issued a statement declaring that Carter’s nomination hearing “will provide a valuable opportunity to fully ventilate all issues around this Administration’s feckless foreign policy, and its grave consequences for the safety and security of our nation,” the same statement said that Carter “is not controversial.” Senator McCain had previously described Carter as “an honest, hard-working and committed public servant.”

Carter has already testified before Congress that the United States faces “very real dangers,” particularly from “malignant and savage terrorism” as well as security threats in Afghanistan, parts of Europe and Asia, and in cyberspace. He boasts an extensive record of civil service, including a stint as deputy defense secretary from 2011 to 2013, and as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy under the Clinton Administration. And while he is seen as an effective manager, Carter lacks military service experience. If confirmed, we would be the first Secretary of Defense not to have served in the military or Congress since 1981.

What do you think? Will Ashton Carter make an effective Secretary of Defense? Should the Secretary of Defense have military experience? Why? Do you think that Carter will be more effective in addressing ISIS and the other security threats faced by the United States than Hegel was? Why?