Rachel Oswald

Senators Look for Path on New War Authorization
Current authorization dates to 9/11 attacks

Senators on Tuesday gamely struggled to see if there was a way to set aside longstanding partisan differences over a new authorization for use of military force amid expanding military campaigns in Syria and Iraq, and under a new president who has delegated significant tactical authority to his commanders.

The Trump administration is waging its anti-ISIS campaign under the authority of the 2001 AUMF, which Congress passed shortly after the September 11 attacks. Sixteen years later, experts on both sides of the aisle increasingly agree the authorization (PL 107-40) has been stretched beyond almost all legal recognition to justify the occasional air strike on Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria and even far-flung groups like Al-Shabab in East Africa.

Democrats Eye Iran Debate for Vote on Russia Sanctions
Iran sanctions measure could get bogged down

Senate Democrats may use floor debate this week on an Iran sanctions measure to try to force a vote on legislation that would impose harsh sanctions on Moscow as punishment for its alleged interference in last year’s presidential elections.

Democrats’ exact strategy for securing a Russia sanctions vote was still developing Tuesday, with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker trying to forestall them a little longer.

Graham, McCain Welcome Putin Foe to Congress

The Senate’s top foes of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday used their bully pulpit to give one of his leading domestic critics a public opportunity to lambaste the leader.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who leads the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid, held the second hearing in a month on the need to boost spending for Eurasian democracy assistance and invited his longtime ally, Armed Services Chairman John McCain to introduce one of the witnesses, a Russian dissident who has twice nearly died from alleged poisoning.

NSC Official: Trump May Abandon Goal of Nuclear Disarmament

This story originally appeared on CQ.com.

A senior administration official on Tuesday said the White House will review whether to back away from longstanding U.S. policy of nuclear disarmament while embarking on the process of updating the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Defense Bill Gives State Department More Authority to Oversee Security Aid

For years, Congress nudged the State Department toward the sidelines of the foreign security assistance game while giving the Pentagon more authority to provide weapons and training to allies and partners. Now, for the first time in decades, lawmakers are putting diplomats back in the middle of the action.

The annual Pentagon policy bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law last month, gives Foggy Bottom greater oversight over security assistance programs and also requires the Pentagon be more transparent about and closely track the tens of billions of dollars it provides annually to security forces in more than 100 countries.

Red Alert: Russia Looms Large as Security Threat
Many Cold War lessons must be relearned

(First appeared in CQ Magazine on May 23, 2016.)

U.S. military forces deployed to Europe are tasked with two missions: Build cooperation among NATO allies and support operations in more dangerous corners of the globe. But as Russia, America’s Cold War nemesis, flexes its military muscle, these forces, which have dwindled in size in recent decades, are again on the front lines. Military leaders now say Russia is the greatest threat to U.S. security.

Senate Rejects Resolution Blocking Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia
Backers say vote still puts kingdom on notice about its conduct

The Senate on Wednesday voted down a rare attempt to block an arms sale to Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. counterterrorism partner but one that has fallen into disfavor with a number of lawmakers due to the kingdom's involvement in the war in Yemen and lingering suspicions about its role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Though senators voted 71-27 to table a resolution that would block the sale, the measure's bipartisan backers, Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., portrayed it as a partial success. They argued the vote sends a strong signal to Riyadh and to the Obama administration that a significant portion of Congress is unhappy with Saudi Arabia’s apparent negligence in preventing civilian casualties in its 18-month bombing campaign in Yemen, as well as its broader role in the fight against terrorism.     

House Passes Bill Allowing 9/11 Lawsuits Against Saudi Arabia
White House has previously issued veiled veto threat

Congress cleared a bill Friday that would allow family members of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, setting up a potential clash with the White House, which has suggested it could veto the measure.

The Obama administration opposes the bill, known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, over concerns that it could harm relations with Saudi Arabia, a key counterterrorism partner. Administration officials also have warned the legislation could weaken the global norm of sovereign immunity and encourage other countries to allow lawsuits by their citizens against the United States and its allies.

Senate's NDAA Language Sparks State, Pentagon Turf Battle
House lawmakers vow to push back against bill modifications

An effort by the Senate Armed Services Committee to consolidate and streamline post-9/11 Pentagon rules for providing security assistance to foreign countries has unleashed long-simmering State Department concerns over how its oversight of those programs is handled.  

As part of committee Chairman John McCain’s ambitious effort to craft a legacy-shaping fiscal 2017 defense policy measure (S 2943), the decision was made to tackle the plethora of authorities that the Defense Department was granted over the past 15 years to partner with dozens of nations in improving not only their militaries but also their police, coast guard, border guards, counterterrorism forces and counternarcotics capabilities.  

Foreign Aid Bill Omits UN Family Planning, Climate Change Funds
Democrats also criticize cap on funding for resettling refugees

House appropriators on Tuesday advanced the $52 billion fiscal 2017 foreign aid spending bill, as amended, which includes Republican policy riders that would block funding for a U.N. climate change fund and limit financial assistance for family planning programs.  

The appropriations measure was advanced by a voice vote after Republicans defeated a number of Democratic amendments to provide funding for the U.N. Green Climate Fund and slightly increase levels of funding for bilateral and multilateral assistance for family planning activities.  

Indian Premier Touts Growing US Ties in Speech to Congress
Urges lawmakers to support new world order

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday during which he pitched his country, the world’s largest democracy, as a special partner for the United States, the world’s oldest democracy.  

Modi's speech largely glossed over areas of discord between the two countries, which include, on the U.S. side, frustration with the lack of significant progress by the prime minister in advancing the game-changing economic reforms he campaigned on more than two years ago.  

The US and Japan: An Alliance, Redefined
Defense ties deepen in face of a growing Chinese threat

TOKYO — President Barack Obama traveled to Japan this week for the G-7 summit and a landmark visit to Hiroshima, but the trip also came at a fragile time in the 70-year-old alliance between the two countries. The partnership finds itself under greater scrutiny amid the Asia-Pacific region’s shifting geopolitics.  

In his first term, Obama outlined what he said would be the United States’ strategic pivot to Asia, home to four the top 10 U.S. trade partners and nearly two-thirds of global economic growth. It was to be a rebalancing of U.S. interests in the new century. And now, as China lays claim to disputed territory in the South China Sea and North Korea continues its nuclear weapon threats, the world will see if the U.S. rebalance is up to the challenge.  

Re-Evaluating the Lessons of Hiroshima
Obama's visit inspires hope for a more holistic teaching of World War II

HIROSHIMA, Japan — President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima on Friday where he invoked the memory of “a flash of light and wall of fire” that destroyed the city during World War II.  

At a moving ceremony at the city’s Peace Memorial Park, Obama told an audience that included survivors of the 1945 atomic bombing that the tragic events of that fateful day should never be forgotten.  

Red Alert: Russia Looms Large as a Security Threat
U.S. scrambles to counter Cold War nemesis and reassure European allies

U.S. military forces deployed to Europe are tasked with two missions: Build cooperation among NATO allies and support operations in more dangerous corners of the globe. But as Russia, America’s Cold War nemesis, flexes its military muscle, these forces, which have dwindled in size in recent decades, are again on the front lines. Military leaders now say Russia is the greatest threat to U.S. security.  

That fact is not lost on Gen. Frank Gorenc, the four-star U.S. Air Force commander in Europe, who has seen Congress’ interest in his theater spike. What was recently viewed by lawmakers as a place to cut costs is now the opposite.  

Kirk, Johnson Targeted by Liberal Groups for Iran Votes

Votes this past fall against the Iran nuclear deal could come back to haunt two vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election. At least that’s what some progressive organizations are hoping.

World Grows Impatient for Senate to Ratify Test-Ban Treaty

The international community is growing increasingly impatient for the Senate to ratify a key nonproliferation pact amid warnings that a global taboo against nuclear weapons testing may falter if momentum toward the accord’s entry into force is not seen in the next half-decade or so.

Graham's Draft AUMF Snags Spot on Senate Calendar

Sen. Lindsey Graham's draft resolution for a war without limits against the Islamic State nabbed a spot on the Senate calendar Wednesday night by bypassing traditional procedure.

Potential Sanctions From North Korea Nuke Test Likely to Impact China

A nuclear test last week has reignited lawmakers’ desire to pass new sanctions against North Korea, including economic penalties that previously were considered too inflammatory toward China.

Refugee Funding In Doubt After Paris Attacks

Senior GOP appropriators are backing away from a program to resettle Syrian refugees, jeopardizing funding to address what a leading Republican lawmaker once called “the greatest humanitarian disaster of my lifetime.”

Democrats Urge Obama to Address Needs of Rape Survivors in War Zones

Democrats are increasingly clamoring for President Barack Obama to use his authority to reinterpret a foreign aid law to allow for U.S. funds to be used to provide abortions to women who have been raped in conflict zones.