WASHINGTON, D.C. — It is a hallmark of U.S. history that the government remains invested in foreign affairs. In fact, it is the opinion of many politicians that what happens abroad has a direct impact on what happens domestically. It has been evident during the last several campaign cycles that Americans care about the international affairs policies proposed or supported by presidential candidates.
Both Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren share the favor of progressives in terms of their domestic policies, particularly those related to finance. But as newly-announced presidential candidates, it is their international affairs policies that are drawing more attention, especially in light of the current President’s erratic approach to foreign conflict.
Senator Bernie Sanders
In terms of proposed international affairs policies, Sen. Sanders might be described as prolific. In his tenure in Congress, he has sponsored 9 pieces of legislation and cosponsored more than 400. In this Congressional session alone, his name appears in support of 3 international affairs policies.
Recently, one of Sen. Sanders’ bills became law, having passed in both the House and Senate. S.J.Res.7 is a joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces, which had not been authorized by Congress, from hostilities in Yemen. This bill essentially acts as a reprimand and a preventative measure against the recent employment of American forces in Yemen.
As made clear by this resolution, there can be no U.S. military activity in Yemen without a declaration of war, which only Congress is authorized to give. Unless otherwise indicated by intelligence that shows Yemen is a direct threat to the American homeland, Congress must approve any involvement in overseas hostilities.
Senator Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Warren’s international affairs policy support seems more selective. In her six years as a senator, Warren has sponsored one bill related to international affairs and cosponsored more than 100 pieces of legislation aimed at foreign disputes.
In 2017, Sen. Warren introduced S.1796 Upholding Americas Nuclear Commitments Act of 2017, which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and has not seen the light of day since. This bill was intended to require a report on Russian missiles, so Congress might better assess any threat the United States might face in regards to the new ground-launched cruise missiles created by the Russian Federation.
Interestingly, though this bill was not passed by either the Senate or the House, it has new relevancy after President Trump’s recent pullout of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which gives Russia the freedom to create new missile systems.
On January 30, Sen. Warren introduced the No First Use Act (S.272), to establish the U.S. foreign policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons. The bill has been read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations; it has also been cosponsored by Sen. Sanders. The No First Use Act of 2019 would prevent a first-use nuclear strike by the U.S., which is defined as a nuclear missile launch unsupported by evidence of an enemy striking first.
Sen. Warren and Sen. Sanders recognize that nuclear weapons are singularly destructive in terms of death tolls, long-term health and environmental conflicts and the undermining of global peace.
As a nuclear-capable superpower of the world, it is imminently important that presidential candidates have a thorough and measured understanding of international affairs policies. The legislation passed in Congress often has a profound effect on the lives of millions of people worldwide. By examining the international affairs policies supported by presidential candidates, voters can better understand and predict how their leaders might behave in the White House.