McConnell: Nation Deserves Strong, Bipartisan Foreign Policy to Counter Serious Threats
‘American statesmen should make commitments and issue threats that can endure beyond their terms in office… they will be more successful, and their legacies more enduring, if they make the effort to build bipartisan support among Congress and the American people. Neither America nor our allies will like the world that results if the world’s leading nation starts over like an Etch-a-Sketch every four years.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding nominations and foreign policy:
“Yesterday, we confirmed Antony Blinken, our new Secretary of State. Like the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of the Treasury, it was another big, bipartisan vote here in the Senate.
“Four years ago, Senate Democrats subjected mainstream nominees to lead State and Treasury to a full gauntlet of partisan delay tactics. They forced cloture votes. Those were nearly party-line. So were the final votes. Neither got on the job until February.
“But this President’s mainstream nominees to key posts are receiving fair consideration and a timely process.
“Republicans have no shortage of substantive policy differences with the new Administration. We’ll be discussing them with Secretaries Austin, Yellen, and Blinken in the course of normal committee oversight.
“But unlike what took place four years ago, Republicans are not gratuitously delaying people who are mainstream and qualified whom the new President has asked to serve in key posts.
“If we find someone unfit, unqualified, or outside the mainstream, you bet we’ll oppose them.
“But I just spent four years arguing that presidents deserve some latitude to assemble their team. I meant it. And I mean it now.
“With my vote to confirm Mr. Blinken, I wanted to reinforce the need for a true bipartisan consensus on the core objectives of our foreign policy.
“Yesterday, while discussing the legislative filibuster, I talked about the chaos that would ensue if every domestic policy swung wildly back and forth with every election.
“The same goes for our foreign affairs. American statesmen should make commitments and issue threats that can endure beyond their terms in office.
“To be clear, presidents bear the primary responsibility for foreign policy, and I’m not suggesting different leaders should not have different ideas.
“But they will be more successful, and their legacies more enduring, if they make the effort to build bipartisan support among Congress and the American people.
“Neither America nor our allies will like the world that results if the world’s leading nation starts over like an Etch-a-Sketch every four years.
“For starters, in several important areas, the new Administration should build on bipartisan consensus that already exists.
“Let’s start with China.
“The Trump Administration helped bring about a long-overdue American awakening to the reality that we are in a strategic competition with the PRC…
“That Beijing will not magically conform itself to the so-called international community…
“And that these challenges demand fast and serious action from the U.S. and our friends.
“President Biden and his new cabinet must keep working with Congress to continue building a whole-of-government, whole-of-economy approach to checking China.
“We need Secretary Austin to keep focus on modernizing our forces; deterring Chinese threats, from the Indo-Pacific to space and cyberspace; sustaining robust defense funding; and investing in defense partnerships across the world.
“We need Secretary Yellen to keep focused on the coercive manipulation the PRC uses to ensnare the developing world in its orbit.
“We need Secretary Blinken to keep clarifying the China threat to our allies and European partners; to focus on contesting their growing influence in Africa and the Middle East; and to hold Beijing accountable for its unacceptable repression in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong and hostility toward Taiwan.
“Now, we know China is not the only great power with whom we need to hang tough.
“In concrete policy terms, the United States just spent four years developing a more clear-eyed approach to Russia.
“Rather than chasing naive “resets” with the Kremlin or worshipping arms control like a religion, we leaned into military assistance to Ukraine, serious sanctions, cyber countermeasures against meddling, and other strong steps.
“The Biden Administration will find willing partners on Capitol Hill if it builds on this progress, keeps imposing real costs on Moscow, pushes back on expansionism in the eastern Mediterranean, and importantly, encourages our allies to join this effort.
“Great power competition is key. But of course it does not exhaust the threats we face.
“In the Middle East, I know President Biden will face political pressure from the Left to rejoin Obama’s Iran deal, just as President Trump faced pressure from the right to abandon it.
“Had President Obama not tried to circumvent Congress and pursue a partisan policy, this critical national security challenge might not have become this polarizing.
“But here we are.
“There is no question Iran is the biggest threat the U.S. and its partners face in the region.
“It poses threats beyond just its pursuit of nuclear weapons:
“Sponsoring terrorism, its sectarian agenda, its work to undermine its neighbors’ sovereignty, its development of ballistic missiles and lethal drones, and its appalling record on human rights.
“Confronting this multifaceted challenge will take bipartisanship at home and solidarity with Israel and our Arab partners abroad.
“Those things need to exist before making major changes or racing to rejoin a deal.
“And our new President must be ready to respond to violence with force, as the Trump Administration did when they removed Soleimani from the battlefield.
“Speaking of the Middle East, I’ve consistently and vocally stood up -- during administrations of both parties -- against withdrawing our limited forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria too rapidly or without a smart plan. A supermajority of the Senate joined me last Congress in warning against abruptly abandoning battlefields recklessly on bad terms.
“Finally, all of this important work will require that we keep our friends close.
“The United States needs to be a partner that neither strains alliances unnecessarily nor hands out free passes. President Biden should continue prodding our partners to honor their promises, pay their share, and put real capabilities on the table -- and reemphasize that we have their backs.
“One early test for the new Administration and congressional Democrats will be the defense budget.
“If President Biden and his team are serious about contesting China, Russia, and these other threats, they’ll need to show it. Without continued, robust investment in a modern, global force presence, American leadership would be little more than hollow rhetoric.
“I voted to get President Biden’s top foreign policy advisors on the job swiftly. I hope and expect that our shared work will lead to frequent, close, and bipartisan work with the Senate.”
Related Issues: China, Iran, Russia, Nominations, National Security, Israel, Afghanistan