Speaker John Boehner’s Tuesday speech criticizing the White House’s policy toward Russia and warning he might block its bid to join the World Trade Organization was the latest demonstration of the Ohio Republican’s increasing foray into international affairs.
In the policy-heavy speech before the conservative Heritage Foundation, Boehner made the case for a fundamental change to the White House’s “reset” of relations with Russia, arguing that approach has failed.
“The United States should insist Russia ‘reset’ its own policies. If those appeals require teeth, the House stands ready to provide them. … Articulating our values is no act of belligerence, and certainly nothing to be sorry for,” Boehner said.
On the issue of Russia’s entry into the WTO, Boehner made international headlines by arguing that Russia’s acceptance into that organization should be contingent on the recognition by Moscow of the “territorial integrity” of neighboring Georgia.
Over the past six months, Boehner has demonstrated a willingness to engage in foreign policy.
“He’s a guy who’s got a broad view of the world and understands the role of the House in all those dramas,” said Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who has traveled with Boehner in Latin America and North Africa.
And while Boehner sees a role for the opposition in the area of foreign affairs, he has also “expressed a high understanding of constitutional executive authority regardless of who’s president,” Roskam said.
Stepping into the spotlight on a foreign policy issue — particularly one not related to a war or a breaking news event — is a relatively rare thing for top leaders of the House and Senate.
“Sometimes the general public doesn’t get the chance to see or hear the policy position of Congressional leaders” on foreign policy issues, Heritage Foundation President Edwin Feulner said before Boehner’s Russia speech.
Since taking the gavel from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who also demonstrated a keen interest in foreign policy issues — Boehner has taken a much more expansive approach to international affairs.
In June, Boehner took the White House to task over its decision to become involved in the Libyan civil war, sending President Barack Obama a sternly worded letter questioning whether the decision conformed to the War Powers Resolution.
Either “you have concluded the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya, or you have determined the War Powers Resolution is contrary to the Constitution. The House, and the American people whom we represent, deserve to know the determination you have made.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.