For Global Solutions Action Network members, how Congress deals with international concerns is of critical importance. Where do you want your elected leaders to stand on climate security and energy policy? Nuclear weapons proliferation and funding peacekeeping efforts?
The 2014 Congressional Report Card is where Members of Congress are graded on these and other global issues as votes in the immediate past session.
Creating a report card that covers climate security, treaty ratification and human rights is a long and detailed process but was well worth the effort for how it empowers citizens. After scouring the Library of Congress for roll call votes on issues of global importance and surveying our members on which reflected their concerns most, we narrowed our list to 10 votes for each chamber of Congress on which to grade lawmakers.
So what grade did your Senator and Representative receive this term?
Some members of Congress did outright awfully, while others were shining examples of the international leadership which the U.S. Congress should represent. The pictured charts display how many Senators and Representatives got which letter grades.
As you might have expected, the report card exemplifies one great American frustration with Congress – partisanship. Based on a 100-point scale, there’s roughly a 62 point difference in the House and 77 point difference in the Senate between Democrats and Republicans. To our dismay, the House came together to exhibit bi-partisan support for only three key votes. In the Senate, there was bi-partisan support on only two issues.
Of course, Republicans do not unanimously vote against international cooperation. The House GOP supported the International Child Support Recovery Improvement Act, which strengthens and reaffirms U.S. compliance with the Rights of the Child treaty. Nevertheless, the only dissenting voices on this bill were 27 Republicans.
On the Senate vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, Democrats and Independents were in full support, while Republicans were entirely divided – 23 for and 22 against. There was even less Republican support in the House. This bill was particularly emblematic of how reluctant Republican lawmakers are to support human rights efforts.
There was bi-partisan support for the containment of Iran’s nuclear program through diplomatic and economic means, the sanctioning of a Russian arms dealer accused of selling weapons to Syrian President Assad, and the accelerated transition of military operations from U.S. to Afghan forces. Realistically, these votes likely had more to do with strategic national interests than supporting international cooperation.
As a fiercely non-partisan organization, we aim to identify and promote bi-partisanship within Congress on global issues as much as possible. Unfortunately, the unbearably blatant conclusion of the 2014 Report Card is that foreign policy has become a partisanship battlefield. Issues that affect us as a country and which should not be partisan – climate change and energy policy, for example – showed the most decisive splits along party lines.
From funding renewable energy technology to eliminating tax breaks for big oil companies, Republicans opposed and Democrats supported. Republicans and Democrats were also divided on Guantanamo Bay policy; Republicans consistently voted to prolong the use of Guantanamo Bay and Democrats voted to close the prison system. The two parties could not see eye to eye on ratifying treaties or on funding international organizations. Most Democrats voted in favor of international cooperation and most Republicans did the opposite.
Why has our foreign policy become so partisan? Are there any underlying reasons or perspectives that drive this party divide? Global Solutions Action Network has released its report card biannually since 2004. Stay tuned for my next piece that analyzes Congressional trends on global issues throughout the last decade.