When the 116th United States Congress convenes on Jan. 3, 2019 the Republicans will face an energized Democrat majority motivated solely by the desire to prevent President Trump’s reelection in 2020.
Foreign affairs legislating will pivot from oversight of how the executive branch anticipates and responds to emerging challenges to America to keeping “Russia, Russia, Russia!” in the headlines despite the dearth of evidence of Trump “collusion” with the Kremlin. Hearings will become opportunities for the putative 2020 Democrat contenders to collect B-roll video for TV commercials and social media campaigns.
The Republican challenge will be to counter Democrat electioneering while communicating a coherent, alternative vision of America’s foreign policy priorities. To do that, the House GOP will need a foreign affairs leader who can communicate a vision, has foreign policy experience, and who “produces,” that is, sponsors legislation that actually becomes law.
Texas Rep. Michael McCaul is that leader.
McCaul led the Committee on Homeland Security for the last six years when Politico called it the “Hardest Working Committee in Congress.” The numbers don’t lie: 112 bipartisan Committee bills passed the House, and 31 of those bills became Public Law. And Representative McCaul’s committee kept its eyes on looming threats, like cyber-attacks on America’s critical infrastructure, and wrote the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act, which was unanimously passed by the House.
Part of being “productive” for a legislator is writing bills are sustainable, that is, that survive the journey into law on more than a party-line basis. McCaul’s committee drew on its Democrat and Republican resources to craft bipartisan bills, the best example being the cybersecurity legislation that was passed unanimously by the House.
Aside from his homeland security committee responsibilities, Representative McCaul is currently a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee having served there since he was first elected to Congress in 2004.
Representative McCaul led a vigorous response to Iran’s worldwide predations by sponsoring H.R. 4744, Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, which passed the House by a vote of 410-2. The act requires the president to impose sanctions on senior members of Iran’s Government responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses, and imposes property-blocking and visa-denial sanctions on officials responsible for the detention of U.S. citizens and residents.
In case the Iranians were slow to catch on, Representative McCaul introduced H.R.4676, the Expanding Sanctions Against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Act, which targeted the economic assets of the Revolutionary Guard, the guys who really control Iran.
Recognizing that America’s foreign policy challenges aren’t confined to the Middle East, Representative McCaul reached across the aisle as the lead Republican cosponsor of Representative Elliot Engel’s H.R. 6012, North Korea Nuclear Baseline Act, which requires an assessment of North Korea’s existing WMD capabilities and mandates regular reporting to Congress on North Korea’s progress toward dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and chemical and biological weapons stockpiles, production, and programs.
On the Hill you can be farsighted, productive and bipartisan, but you have to be able to tell your story.
Being an effective foreign policy communicator is necessary to reach out to a legislature’s “inside” and “outside” audiences. Representative McCaul’s ability to marshal bipartisan support for homeland security legislation bespeaks his ability to communicate a vision shared by House Republicans and Democrats.
Equally important, he addresses the foreign affairs challenges facing the country in venues more substantive than shout-radio and aimed at the America “beyond the Red Line”. Representative McCaul regularly writes about issues such as how terrorism in Africa is a threat to civilization everywhere, China’s use of soft power means to achieve hard power ends to the West’s detriment, and how the U.S.-Israeli alliance can prevent the spread of Iran’s malign influence.
Chairman McCaul’s leadership was recognized by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which awarded him the Henry “Scoop” Jackson Award for his advocacy of a strong military to advance our security and the security of our allies. He shared the award with Congressman Elliot Engel, who will chair the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in the 116th Congress. Republicans should take the opportunity to keep a winning team intact by selecting Representative Michael McCaul as the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
James Durso (@James_Durso) served as a U.S. Navy officer for 20 years specializing in logistics and security assistance. His overseas military postings were in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and he served in Iraq as a civilian transport advisor with the Coalition Provisional Authority. He was a professional staff member at the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is presently managing director of Corsair LLC, a consulting firm specializing in project management and marketing support in the Middle East and Central Asia.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.