Politico Playbook reported this morning that, in the immediate aftermath of President Trump’s dismal and embarrassing performance at yesterday’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, congressional Republicans have thrown up their hands helplessly. As Politico writers Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer and Daniel Lippman put it, GOP lawmakers and their staff are asking, “What the hell do you want us to do?”
House and Senate Republicans are correct only in one sense: the president does have enormous discretion in foreign policy and, as he did yesterday, can act without congressional involvement or approval.
But they’re absolutely wrong that there’s nothing they can do. Congress has the upper hand when it comes to appropriations and can and should use them at least to send the Trump a very strong message.
Here are just five examples of how House and Senate Republicans could immediately use the 2019 appropriations process to get Trump’s attention on Russia:
- Hold a steady series of hearings with the heads of all the U.S. intelligence agencies to ask how they could better deal with Russian election meddling if they had more funds and better direction from the White House.
- Increase the appropriation for all U.S. intelligence agencies as a way of telling Trump who they believe when it comes to Putin.
- Increase the appropriation for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office to demonstrate that they want to Mueller investigation to continue.
- Refuse to pass or reduce the appropriation for the White House and the rest of the executive office of the president.
- Refuse to fund the wall Trump wants to build between the U.S. and Mexico until Trump’s posture toward Russia changes.
None of the 12 fiscal 2019 appropriations have yet been enacted. Therefore, at this moment, Congress has maximum leverage over the White House on all spending issues.
In other words, contrary to what they told Politico Playbook, congressional Republicans actually have a large number of options.
The real question is whether they have they testicular fortitude to do any of them.
There’s much more here: