MFAN Principal Offers 5 Ways the New Congress Can Work Together

As the dust settles from the Mid-term elections, MFAN Principal and executive director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress John Norris finds ways in which the newly-elected Tea Partiers can work with the Obama administration and democrats. In an op-ed for Foreign Policy, he lists five foreign policy issues in which the otherwise “natural enemies” could find common ground. These include:

  • Afghanistan and Iraq
  • Cutting Defense spending
  • Reforming foreign aid
  • Cutting agricultural subsidies
  • Taking on earmarks

On foreign assistance reform, Norris writes:

“While foreign aid has often been demonized by conservatives, progressives and Tea Partiers alike should be able to find some common ground around recent efforts by the Obama administration to tighten and refine international development programs. The White House’s plans for development programs, recently announced after a major strategy review, focus on fewer countries with a distinct emphasis on working with reform-minded governments to nurture broad-based economic growth. The Tea Partiers should also appreciate the administration’s recognition that foreign assistance needs to be more focused on results and that some of the biggest proponents of development assistance are the unimpeachable voices of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen. Progressives should laud the fact that the administration seems newly willing to consider key factors like a country’s human rights record in determining whether it is a good candidate for aid. One big caveat here: Foreign aid is always an easy target for the budget ax, and if development programs are gutted, reform will be almost impossible to make operational. Rep. Eric Cantor’s recent suggestion that aid to Israel should be decoupled from the rest of the foreign operations budget to make cuts to other programs easier is just the first signal of what might be many tussles over aid funding.”

Norris notes that the Tea party philosophy when it comes to defense spending is mixed, but if they stick to their belief in balancing the budget, than defense will certainly need a closer look. He also argues that tackling earmarks – “pet projects” that often distort foreign policy and development objectives – is an area both parties generally agree could use reform. Norris concludes, “It would be naive to think that the bruising 2010 midterm election will leave in its wake sunny harmony, particularly on the foreign-policy front. But it would be equally mistaken to assume that a divided government is incapable of getting anything done — especially on key areas of foreign policy, where unexpected alignments might actually bring the extremes of both parties across the aisle. Washington has always made for strange bedfellows, and 2011 should be no exception.”

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