The election results are roll in across the country, and while control of the House and Senate remains uncertain, it is clear that Republicans did not see the red wave they expected, signaling the enduring strength of President Joe Biden and the Democrats.
Despite widespread pessimism, Democrats have held crucial seats in the House, including Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, both strong national security leaders in the House, who are in hotly contested coin races. Democrats too retained crucial seats in the Senatelike Senator Michael Bennet in Colorado and Senator Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, while winning the vacant Senate seat in Pennsylvania, sending John Fetterman to Washington.
Midterm elections are usually a referendum on the party in the White House, but this one also happened to be a referendum on the Republican Party. The world watches the election results roll in, trying to gauge the strength of Trumpism in the United States. With GOP candidates like Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado surprisingly behind Democratic Challengers is a sign that support for Republicans aligned on “Make America Great Again” is decreasing across the country.
While Democrats certainly have victories to celebrate today, it’s still likely that Republicans will win enough seats to take control of the House. The Senate will depend on the races in Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada. It may take days for all the votes to be counted, and we are most likely heading for a runoff in Georgia.
What is the impact of this midterm election on American foreign policy?
A CHANGE OF PRIORITIES
A new majority in the House (and potentially in the Senate) means new leadership in key committees and, of course, a change in political priorities. We can expect to see a slew of Benghazi-era congressional committee hearings investigating everything from Hunter Biden’s international trade dealings to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two foreign policy issues we can expect Republicans to focus on during these hearings are Afghanistan and immigration.
While in the minority, Republicans successfully used Biden’s Afghanistan pullout against him and his fellow Democrats. Biden fulfilled his campaign promise to end the longest war in US history, but not without exorbitant costs. Unsurprisingly, Republicans leaned into the tough decision to attack Biden’s credibility and question his ability as commander-in-chief, while hailing Donald Trump for initially triggering the troop withdrawal in a February 2020 Agreement with the Taliban.
While the foreign policy community certainly recognizes the impact of elections on this work, it tends to overlook the impact that foreign policy can have on elections.
While the search for accountability is always laudable, Republicans seem focused on holding the Biden administration solely accountable for the US war in Afghanistan by focusing on withdrawal. For example, Rep. Michael McCaul, likely the future chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, once published a interim report calling Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan a “strategic failure”. He also recently sent Secretary of State Antony Blinken a request for preservation of archives for all documents related to the takedown, clearly laying the groundwork for Republicans to launch a relentless investigation.
While partisan bluster is to be expected in any House inquiry into Afghanistan, I have confidence in the Bipartisan Commission on the War in Afghanistan. The commission is made up of outside experts, nominated by both Republicans and Democrats, who will examine the full picture of the US war in Afghanistan, starting with US actions in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks through the withdrawal troops of 2021. . When the commission will report its findings is unknown, but Democrats should be prepared to use their findings as a reality check on any dishonest Republican attacks.
Republicans have also consistently attacked Biden and his administration’s immigration policies, arguing that the administration has failed to secure US borders. The Republican approach to immigration will focus on renew the construction of the US-Mexico border wallcontinuing to enforce title restrictions 42 on migrants and increased funding for border security. Ultimately, Republicans are keen on keeping US borders closed to migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean without any strategy on how to support people fleeing violence and natural disasters.
The Biden administration successfully overturned several discriminatory visa policies, including Trump’s Muslim Ban and the policy of “extreme verification”. And while Biden’s immigration policy is far from perfect – from unethical treatment of Haitians at the border to persistent arrears and delays in consular treatment — the Republicans have no sufficient alternative. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is preparing for a series of Republican-led probes and investigations, which could include the removal of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Although Mayorkas has committed no “high felonies,” several prominent Republicans have expressed lack of confidence in DHS’s approach to border security and expressed interest in moving to impeachment proceedings.
IS CONSENSUS POSSIBLE?
A Republican majority will do what they can to prevent Biden from achieving some of his key priorities, namely clean energy goals, continued aid to Ukraine and a balanced approach to China.
Republicans are particularly critical of the Biden administration’s efforts to shift to clean energy resources, affirming that clean energy transitions are creating global energy crises. With the majority, the Republicans will push for reinvestments in oil, natural gas and nuclear power, arguing that their approach will reduce energy costs for Americans. While a Republican majority is unlikely to actually derail Biden’s ambitious global climate strategy in the near term, the international community is likely concerned about what these election results mean for the future of US climate leadership. Armed with historic climate finance from the Inflation Reduction Act and an ambitious global climate agendaBiden is well positioned to reassure the international community of the United States’ commitment to climate leadership, but he will need to show the world that success is not a one-time victory.
While Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the presumptive Republican-majority House Speaker, has recently tried to reassure national security officials that he will not drop aid to Ukraine, Ukrainians and Europeans are no doubt concerned about what a Republican majority means for the future of US funding for Ukraine. The Republicans are unlikely to cut off all US funding for Ukraine, but we should expect them to use their position in the majority to push for a gradual decrease in funding while also pushing our European allies to increase their financial support to Ukraine.
While much of the airtime will be taken up with Republican attacks on Biden and the Democrats, the US-China policy offers a clear opportunity for bipartisan cooperation in Congress with leadership and support from the White House. The Biden administration and Democrats are already pretty hawkish on China, and their current approach hasn’t strayed too far from what Republicans hailed under Trump. While Republicans can publicly criticize Democrats to be too weak on China, the reality is that both sides are pushing for decoupling from China and renewed investment in onshore manufacturing and innovation to bolster US competitiveness. Congressional Democrats and White House officials will find partners among Republicans like Sen. Todd Young (R-Pa.) and likely future House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ind.), to achieve their shared goals of strengthening manufacturing and driving U.S. competitiveness and innovation, as outlined in the bipartisan agreement CHIPS and scientific law.
OVERCOMING THE MID-TERM ELECTION
While there is some room for bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy, a Republican majority in the House will work to distract the American public with political theater while complicating Democrats’ efforts to address key policy priorities. foreign policy.
While the foreign policy community certainly recognizes the impact of elections on this work, it tends to overlook the impact that foreign policy can have on elections. American voters are unlikely to turn into foreign policy buffs, but they must elect and support leaders who are committed to building support for a principled American foreign policy. For example, Reps. Slotkin (D-Mich.), Spanberger (DN.J.), and Andy Kim (DN.J.) are able to connect foreign policy and national security to the day-to-day concerns of their constituents — and ultimately, it helps them win elections.
Foreign policy therefore began to matter for the midterm elections and vice versa.
Kristina Biyad is the Director of Outreach at Foreign Policy for America, working alongside a national network of committed leaders to build support for principled American engagement around the world. She is a political partner in 2021 of the Truman National Security Project and registered with the Arab America Foundation. List of 30 under 30 and the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Diversity in National Security List of national security and foreign affairs officers of the United States.