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Don’t Underestimate Congress!

The November, 2012 election to all 435 House seats and 33 Senate seats will determine the capability of the elected, or reelected, President to operate in a system which features the strongest legislature in the world, equal in power to the President, the most authentic representative of the American constituent and a systematic supporter of the Jewish State.

At this stage, the House Republican majority of 242:192 (one vacancy) seems to be secure. However, the Senate Democratic majority of 53:47 is increasingly vulnerable with the retirement of 6 Democrats, compared with 2 Republicans; the 23 Democratic contested Senate seats, compared with only 10 Republican seats; and the high vulnerability of 8 Democratic, compared with 2 Republican, Senate seats. In fact, the retirement of Centrist “Blue Dog” Democrats, in both chambers, could reflect their own polling, thus spelling a potential trouble for President Obama’s reelection.

The November 2012 election will determine the House and Senate majorities in Congress, which is co-equal to the White House in shaping domestic, foreign and national security affairs. It was Congress which terminated the US military involvement in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos (the “Eagleton Amendment”), Angola (the “Clark Amendment”) and Nicaragua (the “Boland Amendment”); forced the USSR/Russia to open its gates to emigration (the “Jackson-Vanick Amendment”); cut foreign aid to Turkey and Chile; restructured the US intelligence community; caused the cancellation of the AWACs sale to Iran and trimmed the sale of Hawk and Sidewinder missiles to Jordan and Saudi Arabia; played a lead role in toppling the White Regime in South Africa; authorized the 1991 and the 2003 wars against Iraq; determined the date of the Somalia evacuation; refrained from ratifying the 1999 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; extended emergency assistance to Israel in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, in defiance of President Bush and Secretary of State Baker; etc.

US legislators prefer to yield the international arena to the President, and be preoccupied with district, state and national issues, which are critical to their constituents and to their reelection. However, Congress reveals its powerful co-determining muscle in the international arena whenever urged by constituents and when Presidents abuse the Executive power, mislead Congress or follow policies which are opposed by most legislators.

The Congressional clout has grown dramatically since the Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran Gate and globalization. These milestones have enhanced the involvement of most legislators in international issues, have upgraded the oversight capabilities of Congress, have dramatically elevated the quality and quantity of Capitol Hill staffers, and have restrained the presidency.

Congress derives much of its power from the decentralized federal system, the centrality of the constituent, the effective separation of (equal) powers, the total independence of the Legislature, and the elaborate system of checks and balances, which are designed to prevent the tyranny of the Executive and maintain a limited government. Congress – which possesses the “power of the purse,” the jurisdiction of oversight, advice and consent and the “congressional veto” – has the authority to change, suspend, reverse, direct and initiate policies, prevent senior presidential appointments, reject treaties and add and eliminate government departments and agencies.

In contrast to prime ministers and presidents in the parliamentary systems, US presidents are not omnipotent Executives, but one of three equal branches of government. US presidents are very powerful and -unlike the diversified views of the Legislature – they is are a one man Executive. But, the Presidents are not super-legislators, do not determine the legislative agenda, do not crown congressional leaders and committee chairmen and do not set the list of congressional candidates. US Presidents execute policies which are legislated by Congress, whose loyalty to the constituent, the constitution and the legislative process supersedes loyalty to the President and to the political party.

While the President is the Commander-in-Chief, article 1 of the US constitution (reinforced by the 1973 War Powers Act) stipulates that Congress shall have the power to declare War. Congress has the power to initiate, authorize and terminate, while the President executes.

In 1992, I was told by then Majority Leader, George Mitchell: “Didn’t you brief our distinguished Israeli guest that the US is not a monarchy and that Congress is co-equal to the Administration?!” Hopefully, future Israeli leaders will realize that next to a powerful US President, there is an equally-powerful Congress – the most genuine representative of the American People and a bastion of support for enhanced US-Israel cooperation.


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