Few if any Americans will be casting their ballots in the midterms based on their views about foreign policy. But if current polling trends hold, the outcome of the 2022 elections could have a major impact on the conduct of both the Biden administration and the United Nations.
The only question is whether Republicans are serious about stopping appeasement of Iran or the ability of the United Nations to go on legitimizing anti-Semitism. This will depend mainly on the identity of the GOP members calling the tune in January: the establishment, which is solely interested in holding onto power, or insurgent conservatives who aren’t interested in getting along with the powers-that-be inside the beltway.
With polls now indicating that something like a red wave will unfold on Nov. 9, it appears that campaign strategist James Carville’s rule about what matters most to voters—“It’s the economy, stupid —will prevail. If so, the country’s faltering economy and raging inflation should mean that the United States will go back to a divided government after two years with the Democrats being in charge of both ends of Capitol Hill.
That means two years of congressional gridlock, with both parties blaming each other for the stalemate. But if Republicans are serious about checking the administration’s left-wing tilt, they will have plenty of opportunities to make a difference. And foreign-policy issues will provide a couple of crucial ones for that purpose.
Even with large majorities, Republicans can still be blocked from passing bills. Democrats in the Senate will be able to filibuster proposed bills—a practice they denounced as racist when the GOP employed it, but one they will hypocritically embrace as soon as they return to the minority in the upper body—and President Joe Biden will be able to veto any legislation that does pass.
This will give GOP leaders—such as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), who expects to return to the post of majority leader, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), almost certain to replace Nancy Pelosi in the speaker’s chair—an excuse to use the next two years to do nothing other than thwarting Biden’s nominations to the judiciary and stage hearings where they can make administration officials miserable. The notion of this being merely a waiting period until the 2024 election is decided will be proven wrong if the Republicans have the guts to bring the government to a screeching halt.
Congress can’t make laws by itself, but the House of Representatives does control government funding. So, in theory, a congressional majority can hold any administration hostage, simply by turning off the money faucet that enables it to go on functioning.
As previous Republican majorities learned when they tried this maneuver against presidents like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, however, it’s a perilous exercise. With the help of their cheerleaders in the mainstream media, Democrats have crushed any effort to use the power of the purse in this way by guilting establishment Republicans into surrendering every time.
The GOP was always shamed into acting as if its job was merely to keep the governmental machine operating, rather than use their electoral mandate to influence what the government does.
The Washington establishments of both parties are always more interested in controlling and profiting from government than they are in changing anything. Those who dissent from this uniparty’s practices are labeled “bomb throwers,” and can usually be easily isolated and stopped.
But this can change in 2023, since both the House and the Senate will have many new GOP members who are neither beholden to party leaders nor interested in following the traditional Capitol Hill practice of “going along to get along.”
The legacy media can be relied upon to demonize conservatives and supporters of former President Donald Trump as “insurrectionists” and MAGA extremists. But in the current environment, in which the right no longer cares what a biased media says and is suspicious of career insiders like McConnell, they should be immune to the sort of pressure that undid previous generations who sought to leverage the power of the purse.
This is precisely where new GOP majorities can deal with two of the bleeding sores of American foreign policy that cry out for congressional action: Iran and the U.N.
The executive branch is responsible for executing foreign policy, a principle that the courts have repeatedly upheld when challenged by Congress. But that doesn’t obligate the legislative branch to fund those policies.
The Biden administration remains committed to reviving the dangerous 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. It is thus likely to make more concessions after the midterms, in an effort to achieve its goal of rapprochement with Tehran.
But, while there is nothing the GOP can do to stop it from signing such a pact, or from presenting it as merely an agreement, not a treaty, between the governments, its votes in the Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required for ratification, would make a difference.
The first Iran deal was snuck through Congress, and the establishment Republican leadership did nothing about it. But GOP majorities in both Houses could simply stop funding the State Department or confirming any Biden appointments. That would force the president to drop the deal and give up his quest to empower and enrich an Islamist regime that not only threatens the existence of Israel and the stability of the Middle East, but oppresses its own people.
The administration has shown itself unwilling to pay more than lip service in support of the protests against the theocrats, as recent comments by Iran envoy Robert Malley indicate. This behavior demands more than a rhetorical response from Republicans. They can supply a serious one, in the form of a potential State Department shutdown next year.
Similarly, Congress can do more than pass toothless resolutions when it comes to the U.N. Trump withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council, both in response to the way that the world’s worst tyrants ran its agenda and due to its targeting of Israel.
Biden then returned the U.S. to this farce, lending it undeserved credibility, and continuing to supply 28 percent of the entire U.N. budget, as well as of its associated agencies like the HRC.
While the U.N. as a whole is an ongoing disgrace, last week’s report of the HRC’s Commission of Inquiry on Israel has highlighted the issue of the world body’s anti-Semitism. The HRC can’t be reformed. The only proper response is to do everything possible to shut it down and to punish those of its officials who are responsible for its trafficking in blatant Jew-hatred and its efforts to isolate and destroy the one Jewish state on the planet.
While some find it hard to work up much indignation against the U.N., or regard efforts to rein it as tilting against windmills, the Commission of Inquiry’s effort to aid the destruction of Israel illustrates how dangerous it can be. Indeed, documents like this report are useful tools for the spread of anti-Semitism via the BDS movement and to those wishing to aid the likes of Iran and its terrorist allies, which seek Israel’s extinction. While the administration opposed the Commission’s report, it isn’t prepared to hold those responsible for this outrage by withdrawing from or defunding the HRC.
It’s up to Republicans to pass legislation defunding the HRC and the Commission of Inquiry. More than that, the House, with the backing of Senate Republicans, must use its leverage over the funding of the State Department to ensure that the administration doesn’t find a way to evade restrictions in this realm.
That will require a degree of intestinal fortitude that past GOP congressional leaders have lacked. But what must be understood about this is that by refusing to use its fiscal power, the DC establishment has stood by while this administration uses taxpayer dollars to enable the U.N. to spread anti-Semitism.
If the GOP is serious about stopping Biden’s toxic policies, it can’t waste precious time on rhetorical exercises. 2023 must be the year this comes to an end.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.