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Congress: Yes, We Can!

It was Congress – on both sides of the aisle – which led the Obama Administration to veto its own ideology and policy, at the UN, on February 17, 2011.  Majority leader Cantor, Minority Whip Hoyer, Foreign Relations Committee Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen and Ranking Democrat Berman, Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Chabot and Ranking Democrat Ackerman spearheaded the flood of determined Congressional messages to the White House.

Once again, Congress demonstrated its role in co-determining US national security, possessing the power to direct the Executive.  Thus, the occasional conflict between the Legislature and the Executive over national security policy is inevitable and inherent, as prescribed by the US Constitution with its elaborate system of checks and balances.  Congress is not eager to challenge a president, but is capable of the challenge if required by constituents.

Once again, Congress demonstrated its independence, adhering to the principles of Separation of Powers. The late Senator Robert Byrd (West Virginia – Democrat) addressed President Clinton during a floor speech: “I am the obedient servant of the Constitution and not of the President.”

Once again, Congress leveraged its Power of the Purse and its power to supervise the Administration, to shape, suspend, amend and even reverse policy.  For example, it was Congress – and not the Administration – which terminated the US wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, US military involvement in Angola and Nicaragua, US ties with the white government in South Africa, the acquisition of the B-2 and the civil war in El Salvador. It was Congress which coerced the USSR to allow Jewish emigration, cut foreign aid to Turkey, imposed sanctions on Uganda, extended the acquisition of the F-117, prevented the ratification of Clinton’s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, restructured the US intelligence community, upgraded the port of Haifa for the Sixth Fleet, initiated the US-Israel Bi-national Industrial Research & Development (BIRD) Foundation, which produced a multi-billion dollar bonanza for the US economy, etc.

Once again, Congress highlighted the key axis of the US Constitution: Constituent and constituent-loyalty over party-loyalty.

Once again, Congress exposed the endemic constraints of presidential power, as stipulated by the US Constitution: To prevent Executive tyranny by limiting the power of the Executive. The term “Commander in Chief” has often been misinterpreted as if it were “Omnipotent President.”  A US president is not “The Government” – a US president constitutes one of three branches of government, which operate through genuine power-sharing.

Once again, Congress leveraged the relative weakness of a president, who is transformed from a Coattail President (Obama – 2008) to an Anchor-Chained President (Obama – 2010), as was President Carter. Traditionally, presidents benefit from their stature, which enables them to mold public opinion and influence legislators.  However, Obama’s stature has been eroded severely during the first two years of his administration.

Once again, Congress justified the Founding Fathers, who featured Congress – the most authentic representation of the American people – in the opening article of the Constitution, while the president was accorded the second article.

Once again, Congress highlighted the Jewish State as one of the very few common denominators on Capitol Hill, binding Democrats and Republicans, during one of the most polarized congressional sessions. Moreover, Congress – reflecting most constituents – does not consider Israel as a classic foreign policy issue.  Congress considers the Jewish State a non-conditional strategic ally and also as a domestic issue, which is related to the moral Judeo-Christian foundations of the USA.

In light of the congressional reality, and the consistent and systematic congressional support of the Jewish State, Jerusalem should resurrect the policy of its 1948-1992 Prime Ministers (Ben Gurion through Shamir), who acknowledged Congressional (equal) power in co-determining national security.

The Jewish State should, also, emulate the US Constitution, restructuring the Israeli political system by highlighting the constituent – and not political parties and prime ministers – as its chief axis, introducing genuine systems of separation of powers and checks and balances, and significantly enhancing the power of a newly-created bicameral Legislature.


The post-1967 turning point of US-Israel cooperation

Israeli benefits to the US taxpayer exceed US foreign aid to Israel

Iran - A Clear And Present Danger To The USA

Exposing the myth of the Arab demographic time bomb

Congress – the co-equal and systematic ally of Israel

Presidents propose and Congress disposes

On September 23, 2021, the US House of Representatives voted 420:9 to replenish the Israeli-developed defensive “Iron Dome” missiles, which are increasingly manufactured – and eventually exported – by the US defense company Raytheon, that benefits from the battle-tested “Israeli laboratory.”

The overwhelming vote reflects Congressional realization that the “Iron Dome”:

*Enhances Israel’s posture of deterrence, which is critical to the survival of all pro-US Arab regimes and minimization of regional instability;
*Reduces the need for full-scale Israeli wars on Palestinian and Islamic terrorism;
*Provides an alternative to Israeli military ground-operations against Palestinian terrorists, which would entail substantial Israeli and Palestinian fatalities;
*Represents joint US-Israel interests, militarily and technologically, in the face of mutual threats (e.g., Islamic terrorism) and mutual challenges (e.g., developing world-class, game-changing technologies).

*Constitutes another example of the systematic support by Congress of enhanced US-Israel cooperation.

The decisive role played by Congress in the replenishment of the “Iron Dome” underscores the cardinal rule of the US political system: The President proposes, but Congress disposes.

The involvement of Senators and House Representatives in foreign policy and national security-related issues has surged since the Vietnam War, Watergate and Iran Gate scandals, the dismantling of the USSR (which transformed the world from a bi-polar to a multi-polar) and rapidly-expanding globalization.

In fact, former Secretary of State, Jim Baker, complained about the growing congressional assertiveness in the area of foreign policy: “You can’t conduct foreign policy with 535 Secretaries of State….”  Former Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, criticized Congress for micromanaging the defense budget: dictating how much to spend on particular weapons, imposing detailed requirements and programmatic restrictions, venturing into policy-setting and requesting that the Department of Defense submits mountains of reports.

Congressional muscles 

The US Congress is the most powerful legislature in the world, and it has demonstrated its co-equal, co-determining muscle in the areas of foreign and defense policies on many occasions, such as:

*Imposing sanctions against foreign countries in defiance of Presidents Clinton, Obama and Trump (e.g., Egypt – 2012, Iran – 1996-97 and 2013, Russia – 2017);
*Non-ratification of the 2015 JCPOA, which enabled withdrawal by the US;
*The 2009 non-closure of the Guantanamo Detention Camp was led by Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (NV-D), in defiance of President Obama.
*The 2009 non-confirmation of Charles Freeman to the Director of National Intelligence was led by Senator Chuck Schumer (NY-D);
*The 1999 non-ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in defiance of President Clinton and the international community;
*The unprecedented expansion of US-Israel strategic cooperation took place despite stiff opposition by President Bush and Secretary of State Baker;
*The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act overrode President Reagan’s veto;
*The 1984 Boland Amendment aborted President Reagan’s financial and military aid to anti-Communist elements in Nicaragua;
*The 1983 blocking of President Reagan’s attempted coup against the Surinam pro-Soviet regime;
*The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act mandated congressional authorization of surveillance of persons and organizations, which may threaten national security;
*The 1975/76 Tunney (CA-D) and Clark Amendments stopped financial and military covert support of the opposition to the pro-Soviet regime in Angola;
*The 1973 Church-Case Amendment ended funding of military involvement in Southeast Asia;
*The 1973 War Powers Act overrode President Nixon’s veto;
*The Jackson-Vanik Amendment preconditioned aid to Moscow upon free immigration.

Congress empowered by the Constitution

As documented in the aforementioned paragraphs, one is advised to note that while Congress is preoccupied with District and State issues, it has the power to both propose and dispose in the areas of foreign and defense policies.

The US Constitution aspires for a limited government and a non-monarchical president, and therefore does not limit Congress to overseeing the budget. It provides the Senate and the House of Representatives with the power to act on strategic issues and policy-setting.

The Constitution accords Congress ”the power of the purse,” oversight of government operations, ratification of treaties, confirmation of key appointments, declaration of war, funding of military operations and cooperation with foreign entities, creation and elimination of government agencies, imposing sanctions on foreign governments, etc.

In other words, the President is the “commander in-chief” within constraints, which are set by Congress.


The post-1967 turning point of US-Israel cooperation

Israeli benefits to the US taxpayer exceed US foreign aid to Israel

Iran - A Clear And Present Danger To The USA

Exposing the myth of the Arab demographic time bomb