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Saturday, June 15, 2024

McCain’s death means fewer checks, less balance in Senate

Sen. Jim Inhofe (AP)

For the one second it took to read this Washington Post article titled McCain’s death marks a new era for congressional checks on Trump and click on the story to read the first paragraph I hoped it might actually be a good story. After all “ new era” usually suggests something positive.

Sen. John McCain’s death heralds a sea change for congressional challenges to the Trump administration on national security, as the president’s two most vocal Republican critics pass their powerful committee gavels to two of President Trump’s biggest supporters.

As someone who harbors a glimmer of hope from time to time the title on the main page lured me into having unrealistic hopeful expectations.

My hopes were dashed on reading the article which continues:

McCain (R-Ariz.), who used his chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee to question the president’s stance on issues such as Russia, torture and immigration, leaves control to Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.). Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has been a one-man Greek chorus of epithets decrying Trump’s chaotic approach to diplomacy, will hand the reins to Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) at the start of the new year.

The departure of either committee chairman would be noteworthy, as both have attracted considerable attention for criticizing the White House over foreign policies they deem flawed. But together, they portend a sweeping change in how Congress may use its oversight authority to check the president’s international agenda, according to current and former lawmakers, lobbyists and policy watchers — a changing of the guard with potentially enormous consequences for holding the president to account during crises.

“Corker and McCain, the way they have led those committees, have been exceptions to the rule. . . . Both have done a good job of really probing and questioning and disagreeing with their own Republican president when they needed to,” said former defense secretary Chuck Hagel, who also served in the Senate as a Republican alongside McCain, Corker, Inhofe and Risch. “That will shift — there’s no question about it.”

If the GOP controls the Senate in January this is what we can expect from the senators who will replace John McCain and Bob Corker on two important committees.

Sen. James M. Inhofe will become chair of the Armed Services Committee. He may be best known for calling climate change a hoax. According to Wikipedia “ during a heat wave in July 2006, Inhofe said to the Tulsa World newspaper that the environmentalist movement reminded him of ‘the Third Reich, the Big Lie’ , as ‘You say something over and over and over and over again, and people will believe it, and that’s their strategy.’”

That a climate change denier will head up the Armed Service Committee can’t rest well with the military. For example: Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on Climate Instability and Political Instability

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on July 18, 2017, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul J. Selva, gave a detailed description of the impact he understands climate change has (and will have) on the global operating environment in which the armed services operate, and the need for the Department of Defense to be prepared for the threat. Of particular note, he stated: “It will also cause us to have to focus on places where climate instability might cause actual political instability in regions of the world we hadn’t previously had to pay attention to.” That inspires us to shamelessly plug our recent report, “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene,” which explores a number of possible hot spots of the kind the General is referring to.

Other bits and pieces about Inhofe from Wiki and WaPo:

  • Wants a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage
  • The pro-fracking senator has received over $529,000 from the oil and gas industry since 2012
  • Said that America should base its Israel policy on the text of the Bible
  • Has made multiple foreign trips, especially to Africa, on missions that he described as “a Jesus” thing”
  • Has consistently voted against federal disaster relief unless it is for his home state of Oklahoma
  • After the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Inhofe blamed the “culture of sanctuary cities” rather than lax gun control legislation for the shootings
  • During the hearings about the 2004 Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, he stated he was “outraged by the outrage” over the revelations of abuse.
Republican Senators Jeff Flake, Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio and James Risch. Now what? (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Sen. James E. Risch will become chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. Risch is a far lower profile senator than Inhofe, though his positions and record suggest he inhabits the farthest of the far right zone of GOP politics. What he does if or when he is elevated to be the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee is serious cause for concern especially since unless we have a miracle in November, the Republicans will control the Senate.

If this happens we can give up hope that this committee will take any effective action to investigate the Trump and Putin connection.

From Wikipedia and WaPo article:

  • Chairs the Senate Foreign Relations panel’s subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and counterterrorism — a portfolio that also gives him jurisdiction over Afghanistan and Pakistan — has not held a single subcommittee hearing since Trump took office.
  • Disagreed with Dan Coats telling him he supports Trump’s aggressive approach to N. Korea
  • Effectively admonished lawmakers who have expressed concern that Trump might overlook Kim’s human rights record to strike a deal, urging them to trust the president.
  • Risch co-sponsored the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would have made it illegal for a minor to travel over state lines to have an abortion to avoid parental consent laws
  • A+ rating from the NRA said In response to the Orlando nightclub shooting, Risch said that the shooting should not be a reason to call for increased gun control legislation
  • One of 22 senators to sign a letter to President Donald Trump urging the President to have the United States withdraw from the Paris Agreement
  • On Aug. 11, 2017, Risch, in an interview aired on the PBS Newshour, warmly endorsed President Trump’s rhetoric threatening North Korea with military destruction in the event that country launched missiles at Guam.
  • He threatened to block a government spending bill because it included changing the name of the White Clouds Wilderness protected area to honor a deceased political rival, former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus

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