by John Isaacs [contact information]
Published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Online on March 17, 2009
A key bellwether vote in the new Congress came on February 13 when only three Senate Republicans broke ranks from their party and voted with Democrats for President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill.
If support from three Senate Republicans seems sparse, try comparing it to the House of Representatives, where not a single Republican voted in favor of the stimulus. This opening salvo was followed by subsequent unified Republican opposition to an expansion of health care for children, an employment discrimination measure, and a housing foreclosure bill.
These votes, which brought unity to a Republican Party badly dispirited after consecutive election losses, signaled the GOP’s direction for the next two years–nearly unanimous opposition to Obama administration proposals. It’s a strategy similar to one Republicans used in 1994, when congressional Democratic majorities were swept away by a Republican landslide despite President Bill Clinton’s victory only two years before. If past is predicate, the GOP is hoping that 2010 will be 1994 all over again.
If Republicans continue to rally around “no,” there will be important implications for national security issues in the next two years. As I see it, there are three broad groups of executive-legislative national security topics: (1) extremely challenging issues for the Obama administration that will require a two-thirds Senate vote for approval; (2) merely “tough problems” where Congress has the power of the purse and can complicate and occasionally reverse administration decisions; and (3) topics about which Congress will do little more than grumble.
Read the full article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Online.