American people want serious legislators who collaborate across party lines

American people want serious legislators who collaborate across party lines
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If by some miracle the world wakes up to discover that President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE struck a comprehensive nuclear dismantlement deal with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, he will have done what no man or woman has ever done before. Such an accomplishment would be so groundbreaking that even the president’s most vociferous critics may argue in favor of Trump receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

Hobnobbing with Kim Jong Un over a period of months and engaging in marathon bargaining sessions with irascible and jaded North Korean officials are difficult endeavors on their own. But to do all of this at the same time an opposing political party leverages diplomacy with North Korea to score political points on the Washington, D.C. scoreboard would be nearly insurmountable.

As a separate, independent, and co-equal branch of government, the U.S. Congress deserves to be heard and involved during any forthcoming nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang.


This may entail members of Congress to debate and ratify a denuclearization treaty; vote to terminate U.S. sanctions on the North Korean economy in return for Pyongyang’s “complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement” of its nuclear weapons program; or vote on a resolution of disapproval against whatever agreement the Trump administration reaches.

What congressional involvement should not include, however, is what several top senators did this week — pen a partisan-fueled public letter to the White House threatening to block an agreement if a long list of maximalist requirements are not met.  

In a June 4 letter to President Trump, a group of Senators threatened to block any deal that falls below the threshold of “perfect.”

The conditions the lawmakers spell out — the removal of all nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons from North Korea; the permanent dismantling of its “nuclear weapons infrastructure, including test sites, all nuclear weapons research and development facilities;” the ripping out of all advanced centrifuges; the surrender of all ballistic missile systems; and the establishment of an anytime, anywhere inspection regime — are as radical as one can draw up.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerIn the next relief package Congress must fund universal COVID testing Ocasio-Cortez's 2nd grade teacher tells her 'you've got this' ahead of DNC speech New poll shows Markey with wide lead over Kennedy in Massachusetts MORE (D-N.Y.) elaborated further with a marker of his own: “If the deal doesn’t live up to these standards, then the president should not expect Democratic support in the Senate if he tries to lift sanctions.”

The message to President Trump and his negotiators is loud and clear: if you don’t prove your diplomatic meddle to our unrealistic standards, then expect to be embarrassed, utterly scorned, and raked across the boiling hot political coals.

Political partisans would argue that all the senators are trying to do is ensure the Trump administration strikes the very best North Korean nuclear deal possible. The claim, however, would be more credible if the demands listed in letter didn’t resemble a child’s wish-list to Santa Claus.

The blatant hypocrisy this letter represents is astounding. Three years ago, a similar group of lawmakers were strongly criticizing partisan attempts to impede and obstruct the Obama administration’s nuclear talks with Iran.

When a group of 47 senators delivered a letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei explaining that any deal he may sign with the White House could be overturned by the next president, the lawmakers were rightly outraged. A White House spokesman at the time called the missive “a flagrant, partisan attempt to interfere with the negotiations.

Then-Senator Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidPentagon forming task force to investigate military UFO sightings Kamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill MORE (D-N.V.) blasted his colleagues on the Senate Floor for “a highly inappropriate and unprecedented incursion into the president’s prerogative to conduct foreign affairs...”

The Obama White House and Sen. Reid were correct in their assessment: The senators injected partisan politics into a highly important, ongoing diplomatic enterprise in order to prevent a potential foreign policy victory for a president from an opposing political party.  

Now, three years removed and in the minority, a similar group of lawmakers are doing basically the same thing to a president from an opposing political party that they vocally complained about.

The only difference between the events of this week and those of March 2015 is that the current caucus has yet to mail a formal letter to Kim Jong Un’s residence. Unfortunately, because U.S.-North Korea diplomacy is very likely to stretch out over a period of months — if not years — there is still an opportunity for that letter to be delivered.

Like tax reform, government spending, or any number of domestic issues, the American people and their elected representatives in Congress have different opinions on how involved the U.S. should be in the world and what policies best serve our national security interest.

This is a benefit of America’s political system; indeed, sober, honest, intelligent debate contributes to the very foundation of what it means to be an American.

But there is a chasm between constructive debate and political gamesmanship. Lawmakers in both chambers and in both parties do not make their constituents proud when they choose to trivialize matters of state into just one more round of political ammunition.

What the American people want instead are serious legislators who collaborate across party lines in order to strengthen, promote, and defend the United States, its people, and its interests.

Daniel DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities, a D.C.-based foreign policy organization focused on a strong military to ensure security, stability and peace.