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Republicans, Foreign Policy, and Federalism

By  Laurence M. Vance

March 2, 2023

Although the Republicans regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November midterm election, they were the opposition party for the first two years of Joe Biden's presidency. But just what did the Republicans oppose?

I have every so often for the past fifteen years referred to a tool I use to judge Republicans in Congress. I am referring to "The Freedom Index: A Congressional Scorecard Based on the U.S. Constitution."

The Freedom Index "rates congressmen based on their adherence to constitutional principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, national sovereignty, and a traditional foreign policy of avoiding foreign entanglements." It is published by The New American magazine, where I am a contributing columnist.

The new edition of the  Freedom Index is the last for the 117th Congress, and looks at ten key measures. Scores are derived by dividing a congressman's constitutional votes by the total number of votes cast and multiplying by 100. So, the higher the score the better.

This edition tracks congressional votes in the Senate on semiconductor incentives, foreign aid, declaration of war, expanding NATO, targeting parents as domestic terrorists, the Inflation Reduction Act, hydrofluorocarbons reduction, terminating Covid-19 national emergency, marriage, and the omnibus 2023 spending bill.

It tracks votes in the House on the U.S. military in Syria, abortion access, expanding NATO, semiconductor incentives, assault weapons ban, the Inflation Reduction Act, electoral count procedures, federal police grants, marriage, and the omnibus 2023 spending bill.

The average Republican Senate score was a pathetic 60 percent. The average Republican House score was 71 percent. A brief look at some of the things Republicans voted on shows us that the Republicans did not oppose much of anything when it comes to an interventionist U.S. foreign policy and an assault on federalism.

During the consideration of a veterans healthcare bill, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) offered an amendment to prohibit the distribution of foreign-aid funds, other than to Israel, for 10 years. Only 7 Republicans voted in favor of it.

During consideration of protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty to expand NATO, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) offered an amendment to add a reservation to the protocols to prevent the United States from going to war before Congress declares war. Only 10 Republicans voted in favor of it.

When the Senate voted in favor of expanding NATO to include Finland and Sweden, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was the lone vote against it (Sen. Rand Paul did not vote).

When the House voted in favor of expressing support for expanding NATO to include Finland and Sweden, only 18 out of 193 Republicans voted against it.

During the consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) offered an amendment to prohibit the deploying of U.S. military forces to Syria. Only 25 out of 211 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had enough sense to vote for it.

When the House passed the "Invest to Protect Act of 2022" to award federal grants to county, municipal, town, village, and tribal governments that employ fewer than 125 law enforcement officers, only 55 out of 157 Republicans voted against it. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had enough sense to vote against it.

The first five of these votes relate to foreign policy. The sixth one relates to federalism. These are both extremely important issues.

So, what do these votes tell us about congressional Republicans as a group? What do these votes tell us about congressional Republicans who claim to be "conservatives"? What do these votes tell us about congressional Republicans who are known for being "constitutionalists"?

They tell us that, with just a few exceptions, congressional Republicans-including the "conservatives" and the "constitutionalists"-are militarists and warmongers who are conserving a reckless, belligerent, and interventionist foreign policy and are enemies of the Constitution. Any vote to empower the federal government to do or fund what the states should be doing or funding is an assault on the Constitution and federalism even if it is for a "good" cause.

Yes, the majority of Republicans in Congress voted against expanding access to abortion, although they have funded Planned Parenthood-the nation's largest abortion provider-for decades. I should also point out that the Republicans were not united in opposition to the codification of same-sex marriage: Thirty-nine of them in the House and 12 of them in the Senate voted with the Democrats to pass the misnamed Respect for Marriage Act ( H.R.8404).

Congressional Republicans are horrible on such key issues as foreign policy and federalism. They share equal blame with the Democrats for the destruction of the Republic.

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