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New Congress, old results

Published time: December 27, 2010 18:04
Edited time: December 28, 2010 02:20

President Barack Obama promised a reset of relations with the rest of the world, greater international cooperation and a recall on George W. Bush’s so-called cowboy diplomacy. But as the 112th Congress prepares to take their seats after a Republican sweep

As the 112th Congress prepares to take their seats after the holiday recess, the new leaders in US foreign and defense policy are once again resetting relations with the rest of the world--by taking a hard stance on cutting military spending and governments that aren't friendly to Washington--from Venezuela to China.

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will take over chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The campaign that won Ros-Lehtinen her seat in the House 20 years ago centered on freeing terrorist Orlando Bosch, who admitted to dozens of bombings in Cuba, including blowing up a Cubana airliner that killed 73 people. In an on-camera interview, she expressed her support for anyone who wished to assassinate Fidel Castro.

"Orlando Bosch is free and at large in Florida, thanks in great part to the efforts of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Now we can imagine what it will be like with them setting the agenda, the hearings and the legislative agenda," said Alexander Main, a policy analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

Republican Connie Mack, also of Florida, will take over chairmanship of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. Mack has sponsored legislation several times that would include Venezuela among the state sponsors of terrorism. Both Ros-Lehtinen and Mack traveled to Honduras in 2009 following the military overthrow of the country’s democraticallyelected President Manuel Zelaya to demonstrate their support for the coup government.

"Our administration calls it a military coup. It's extremely disappointing, and to this day we're still punishing Honduras for doing what we would hope all countries in Latin America would do," said Congressman Mack during a session in the House.

This new hard line isn’t just in foreign affairs. Representative Buck McKeon is the expected pick to lead the House Armed Services Committee next month. He warned of the imminent danger should the U.S. close any of its 837 military bases worldwide to reduce the $4 trillion dollar deficit.

"My fear is that in economic tough times, the people will see the defense budget as the place to solve deficit problems. I think that would be disastrous in the environment we see today and what we're likely to see in years to come," McKeon told conservative leaders at the "Restoring America's Leadership of a Democratic World" conference in Washington Nov. 16.

Just Foreign Policy Director Robert Naiman says, “The main story is it is very hard for Congress to have a decisive influence on foreign policy against the will of the President. Congress can’t start a war without cooperation of the President, Congress can’t try to overthrow the Venezuelan government without the cooperation of the President. At a margin, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen can have a huge influence and what you will see is wild charges against Cuba, Venezuela and other Latin American governments which the Obama Administration will have to respond. “


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