Now that the final rounds of primaries are over and November midterm elections approach, many signs point to huge Republican gains in Congress. Seven weeks is still a long time in politics, so the GOP shouldn't pull a Leon Lett and start celebrating yet. But many independent analysts see a GOP takeover of the House of Representatives as likely, and a potential pick-up of seven or eight seats in the Senate. Such prospects are no doubt causing some serious heartburn in the Obama White House. However, here's a different thought: the Obama administration's national security team should actually welcome major GOP gains in Congress.
While the president's roles as commander-in-chief and diplomat-in-chief give the Executive Branch the lead responsibility on defense and foreign policy, Congress also plays essential parts, especially on spending allocations and scrutiny (in support or opposition) of White House policies. On some of the most important national security issues, a Republican Congress would probably be more supportive of the Obama administration's policies than the current Democratic majorities on the Hill.
Admittedly, foreign policy doesn't seem to be a major concern in the current electoral climate, which is focused on the moribund economy, a dubious health care bill, and the colossal budget deficit. This is certainly the case with the Tea Party movement, and as Peter Baker has described, the Tea Partiers aren't united by any particular foreign policy position.
Nevertheless, the 112th Congress will still have to address a number of national security concerns. If the GOP does take the House and make substantial Senate inroads, here's what it will likely mean for several key issues:
On other national security issues -- terrorism, arms control, China, Russia, democracy and human rights -- a more Republican-leaning Congress would probably bring more scrutiny on certain Obama administration policies. But it is hard to foresee the Hill forcing any dramatic policy changes in those areas (with one wild card being the possible ratification of the New START treaty, which if not completed during this Congress could face renewed scrutiny from new GOP Senators, as Bob Joseph and Eric Edelman point out).
Still, all things considered, if Republicans win big in November, amid the gloomy faces at the White House, there should be a few surreptitious smiles from the national security team.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Shadow Government is a blog about U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration, written by experienced policy makers from the loyal opposition and curated by Peter D. Feaver and William Inboden.