Transatlantic Briefing No. 9-06

Early indications point to a victory for Democrats in the House of Representatives, while the Senate is too close to call. The Democrats will now hold 230 seats, compared to the Republican's 205. Before the election, the balance was 232 Republican seats to 203 Democrat held ones. Senate races in Montana and Virginia are in deadheat, but the exit polls show narrow democratic wins in both states. Additional information will be required before a safe call on the outcome of the election can be made. In the meantime, what does the House victory mean for US Foreign Policy?

First, it looks as if the US will see a resurgence in congressional oversight of the executive branch which has been nearly non-existent since at least 2001. As analysts, such as Ken Anderson at the Hoover Institute have noted, the US cannot operate on a permanent basis as a national security state. It is an untenable position for a democracy. The Democratic win will probably mean at least a minor readjustment regarding the near permanent state of emergency status the US has been on since 2001. The House leadership will also most likely open up a series of investigations on possible violations of the Constitution related to issues such as the detainees in Guantanamo, the use of torture during interrogations, the wire-tapping of American citizens by the Executive and the intelligence and justification for the Iraq War.

Although the Dems will now control the powerful House Ways & Means Committee – the purse strings of the Government – it is doubtful they will try to cripple the President’s policy in Iraq by cutting off funds. Such a move would be seen by the US public as failing to support the troops. Given Senator John Kerry’s recent gaffe regarding education and ending up in Iraq, the Democrats will be keen to avoid actions that would lend support to Republican accusations that the Democrats are anti-military. It is important that the Democrats continue to build upon the gains in public perception that they are a party that can be tough on terrorism and national security issues. It looks like Nancy Pelosi, the probable first female speaker of the House, will not press for impeachment of the President. This is a smart move. The Party should concentrate on domestic and national security issues, providing the country with new direction, not bogging down the government in another presidential impeachment. An impeachment would be a serious overreach that would reflect poorly on the party in the run-up to the 2008 presidential elections.

Additional analysis will be provided as more results come through for the Senate race.

Dr. Michael J Williams
Head, Transatlantic Programme

The views and comments offered here do not necessarily reflect those of the Royal United Services Institute.

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