GOP Searches for Own Foreign Policy: 105th Congress Offered Little to Counter Clinton

By Sieff, Martin | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 16, 1998 | Go to article overview

GOP Searches for Own Foreign Policy: 105th Congress Offered Little to Counter Clinton


Sieff, Martin, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Republican leaders of the 105th Congress have been widely criticized by conservatives for failing to push through policies clearly distinguishable from the Clinton administration's or for failing to oppose those pursued by the Democratic president.

"The [105th] Congress' record on foreign policy was one of bipartisan sterility," said Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president in charge of foreign policy and security issues at the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank.

"Bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy can lead to eras of creativity and construction, as was the case in the late 1940s and 1950s," Mr. Carpenter said. "But the 105th was a striking and sorry contrast to that example."

Others noted that while major foreign policy debates did emerge, they expressed splits within the parties rather than between them, indicating that new political patterns far different from traditional party lines might be developing.

"The pattern of debates during the past two years indicated that bipartisanship is going to become less important as a criteria to assess debates and decision-making in future Congresses," said John Hillen of the Council on Foreign Relations.

GOP COOPERATION

Analysts who note patterns of consensus between the 105th Congress and the Clinton administration say House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his key lieutenants:

* Cooperated closely with the administration in maintaining and expanding free-trade policies.

* Supported the administration in revising the 1948 Washington Treaty to add three former Soviet allies in Central Europe - Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary - to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

* Ratified the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which had been energetically pushed by the Clinton administration.

* Continued to approve funding every year for U.S. involvement in Bosnian peacekeeping operations, despite widespread congressional fears that U.S. troops could be stuck there for years or even decades and despite the escalating cost of the commitment. The deployment is now more than seven times as expensive as the original administration estimate of $1 billion.

AREAS OF DISAGREEMENT

However, experts also said clashes or strains between the Republican congressional leadership and the administration could be found in:

* The refusal of Congress to pay the more the more than $1 billion in U.S. arrears to the United Nations, despite the high priority the administration put on pushing that through.

* Congressional reluctance to approve an $18 billion support package for the International Monetary Fund, although the measure was eventually enacted.

* Continuing bipartisan congressional efforts, which were championed by Mr. Gingrich, to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

* Congressional efforts to implement the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in imposing secondary sanctions on companies from other nations trading in key areas with those two states, despite administration efforts to ward off confrontations with the European Union on this.

* The failure of the administration to get Congress to take significant moves toward ratifying the treaty on measures to combat the threat of global warming, which was drafted by 163 nations in Kyoto, Japan, in December.

"The Congress and the administration failed to pass or reach agreement on the issue of paying the U.N. arrears or take action on the Kyoto treaty," said Harvey Sicherman, president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. …

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