Video #17: The US Congress – the co-equal ally of Israel
YouTube 6-minute-video seminar on US-Israel and the Mideast, September 05, 2016
1. In 1991, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) was asked by the Secretary of the Navy to rescind an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill – upgrading the port of Haifa facilities for the benefit of the Sixth Fleet – the Senator responded: “According to the US Constitution, the Subcommittee on Defense supervises the Department of the Navy and not vice versa.” The amendment remained intact, in defiance of pressure by powerful Secretary of State, Jim Baker. From 1990-92, Senators Inouye (D-HI), Kasten (R-WI) and Stevens (R-AK) initiated a series of amendments, expanding US-Israel strategic cooperation, despite rough presidential opposition.
2. When requested to support an initiative of President Clinton, based on partisan loyalty, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) stated: “I am the obedient servant of the Constitution, not the President!”
3. Following a meeting with an Israeli dignitary, who contended that the president was supreme in the area of foreign policy, Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell (D-ME) quipped: “Yoram, didn’t you tell our distinguished guest that the US is not a monarchy?!”
4. When asked whether President Clinton was guaranteed the backing of the 1993 Democrat-controlled House and Senate, Speaker Tom Foley (D-WA) advised his Chief-of-Staff, Werner Brandt: “President Clinton should not take congressional support for granted, because our political life expectancy is different than his.”
5. Congressional independence is bolstered by prescribing House Members and Senators – as well as Governors – different constituency, terms, timetable and agenda than those assigned to the president and to each other. Constrained by a two-term-limit, presidents rush to accomplish their nation-wide agenda within 4-8 years, while House Members and Senators benefit from two and six-year-unlimited-terms, which enable them to adopt a long-term, gradual approach, advancing an agenda, which may be inconsistent with a presidential agenda.
6. House Members and Senators prefer to focus on domestic issues which are the most critical to their reelection. They tend to defer to the president on external issues, but are capable of flexing formidable muscle when presidents assume an overly imperial posture, outrageously usurp power, disregard Congress, violate laws, pursue strikingly failed policies, or depart dramatically from the public consensus (e.g., Vietnam, Watergate, Iran Gate).
7. The first article of the US Constitution is dedicated to the Legislature, Congress. The powers, structure and procedures of the national legislature are outlined in considerable detail in the Constitution, unlike those of the Executive and the Judiciary.
8. The president is the commander-in-chief, but only as authorized and appropriated by Congress, which is entrusted with the Power of the Purse (funding, defunding, suspending, "fencing," etc.). Congress possesses the muscle to check, defy, oversee, overrule, direct, fund and defund presidential policies, including foreign policy and national security.
9. The power of the co-equal, co-determining US Congress is unique among western democracies, deriving its potency from the constituent, not from party leadership or the president. It reflects the intent of the Founding Fathers to secure civil liberties by constraining the Executive, highlighting the centrality of the constituent and loyalty to the constituent over loyalty to the party. Hence, the concepts of limited government, separation of shared-overlapped-conflicting powers, the diffusion of power, checks and balance (e.g., treaty ratification, confirmation of senior appointments, veto and veto override), the congressional power of the purse, oversight, declaration of war, establishment/abolishment of executive departments and agencies, impeachment, etc.
10. In defiance of presidents, Congress ended US military involvement in Vietnam (the Eagleton, Cooper and Church amendments), Angola (the Clark Amendment) and Nicaragua (the Boland Amendment); overrode Reagan’s veto and brought down the white regime in South Africa; halted the supply of AWACs to Iran on the eve of the Khomeini revolution; overhauled the US intelligence apparatus (the Church/Pike Committees); and forced the USSR/Russia to allow emigration of one million Jews to Israel (the Jackson-Vanik amendment enacted in defiance of the president); etc.
11. On August 1, 2014, Democratic senators forced President Obama to de-link the $225mn funding of the Iron Dome anti-missile batteries from the $2.7bn Immigration and Border Security Bill. In September 2012, Congress blocked a $450 million cash transfer to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. On February 17, 2011, Obama vetoed a UN Security Council condemnation of Israel’s settlements policy, due to the pressure of Democratic Senators. In May, 2009, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) foiled Obama’s attempts to close down the Guantanamo detention camp. In 2009, the Senate prevented Obama’s appointment of Chas Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council. The Senate has yet to ratify the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1999 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
12. Congressional power has been dramatically bolstered since the Vietnam War, Watergate, IranGate and globalization, which have amplified the involvement of most legislators in the international arena, elevated the quality and quantity of some 15,000 Congressional staffers, and dramatically upgraded the oversight capabilities of Congress, the most authentic representative of the American people, a systematic supporter of Israel, the co-equal, co-determining branch of government.
13. The next video will highlight Palestinian demographic manipulation.