Since taking office in January, President Obama has taken some important steps in reorienting US foreign policy, from agreeing to participate in group talks with Iran to giving a major speech committing to the elimination of nuclear weapons. At the same time, he is raising concerns within the peace and security community by intensifying the military strategy in Afghanistan. There are reasons to be optimistic about the direction of US foreign policy, but a major question remains as to whether Congress will help or hinder advancing a new and better foreign policy.

To help voters see what role their representatives and senators have played in supporting positive changes in US foreign policy, Peace Action and Peace Action West have released our 2008 congressional scorecard. We graded representatives and senators on their votes on key issues such as funding for the war in Iraq, nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, torture, and wasteful weapons spending.
Click here to see the scorecard.

One hundred seventeen members of Congress demonstrated an especially strong record of support for real peace and security strategies last year, scoring 90% or higher.  Rep. Henry Waxman, who was one of 58 members with a perfect score for 2008, responded, “I am proud to have voted last year for stronger congressional oversight of the funding and war in Iraq, for nuclear non proliferation, against wasteful weapons systems and military spending, and against torture of detainees at Guantanamo.  My votes reflect my longstanding principles and beliefs.  I am also proud that this year we have a new President of the United States, who has reversed the policies and priorities of the Bush Administration’s policies.  We will work closely together for more responsible and progressive foreign policy.”

The scorecard also includes the Best and Worst of Congress in 2008, highlighting key moments when the House and Senate advanced a more peaceful and pragmatic foreign policy or undermined progress in the right direction. The 2008 session of the 110th Congress received praise for cutting funding for nuclear weapons and blocking a dangerous sanctions bill against Iran, and poor marks for undermining decades of nonproliferation work through the nuclear deal with India and refusing to challenge the Bush administration on Iraq war funding in a meaningful way.

Regardless of what President Obama does, the administration and Congress need to hear from constituents to support them when they’re on the right course and push them to do better when they’re not. As you can see in the 2008 scorecard, we had some great successes last year because of the power of our grassroots organizing, and we have even greater opportunities to make significant strides toward a new foreign policy if the American public remains engaged and vigilant.