The most relevant opposition to President Donald Trump is arguably not from Democrats but from members of his own party. The President’s public feuds with establishment Republicans has led to political victories, with high-profile figures like Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) deciding not to seek re-election.
But these Senators are using the time they have left in Congress to challenge President Trump and the agenda he represents. According to The Washington Times, Sen. Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has declared his intention to use his committee in the coming months to question prominent members of President Trump’s cabinet “about what powers the President has, should [and] shouldn’t have.”
Sen. Corker is employing the help of Sen. Flake, who also sits on the Foreign Relations Committee. Their efforts begin Monday evening when Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appear before the committee.
The primary purpose of the questioning, according to Sen. Corker, is to determine the Trump administration’s “perspective” on war powers and whether Congress should pass the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed after the 9/11 terror attacks.
The Authorization for Use of Military Force gives the President authority to use necessary force against those who planned or aided in the 9/11 attacks, or who harbored the terrorists that did.
“The committee is going to be very active,” Sen. Corker said. “It’s going to be a very robust period of time.” The Tennessee Republican’s remarks seemed to suggest that the hearings will be a referendum on President Trump’s foreign policy.
“I think it will be very informative to the American people and to the rest of the Senate about what powers the President has, should [and] shouldn’t have,” Sen. Corker said. The anti-Trump Senators’ opposition to the President could potentially take many forms.
Sen. Corker may leverage his role in the Foreign Relations Committee to refuse to sign off on President Trump’s appointees, such as the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs and US Ambassador to South Korea positions that have yet to be filled.
Sen. Corker could also stall the President’s efforts to pull out of the Obama-era Iran Nuclear deal, which has been highly criticized by conservatives. The high-profile lawmaker has challenged President Trump before, criticizing his desire to reduce expenditures at the State Department. The Senate Appropriations Committee ultimately approved a budget 20 percent more costly than what the President wanted.
Sen. Flake insists the questioning of key Trump administration foreign policy officials is not personal. “Bob, he’s straight up,” Sen. Flake said. “Our views on foreign policy are known. We’re concerned about instability. And obviously, we want effective foreign policy. I think we have some issues there. But they are not borne out of animus for the president or because we disagree with the president. It’s just the way we feel.”
Sen. Corker intends to use his committee to question Trump’s cabinet about the president. Is this okay?
Last week, Sen. Flake announced he would not seek re-election in 2018, citing his disagreements with President Trump as the primary factor and arguing that “the notion that one should stay silent…as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened…is a historic and, I believe, profoundly misguided.”
The “alliances and agreements” to which Sen. Flake refers likely include the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Paris Climate Accord–from which President Trump withdrew–as well as NAFTA and the Iran nuclear deal, which the President is seeking to renegotiate. All of these agreements are immensely unpopular with the Republican base.