The Democrats Now Control the House. What Does This Mean for Foreign Policy?

Written by: Simon Fischer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you are probably aware that the Democrats have taken back control of the House of Representatives. This change of control will have widespread impacts on many facets of policy, primarily including foreign relations. Democrats may not have full control of congress, but there are still a number of ways they can make an impact. Here are four ways in which they can alter the future US foreign policy through having control of the House:

First, the Trump Administration recently re-imposed sanctions on Iran that were waived under the nuclear deal that heavily target their economy and primary exports like their oil industry. The administration is now faced with the daunting task of implementing these sanctions, and also will have to grapple with the consequences it has with their overall relationship with Iran. Democrats were notably in favor of the nuclear deal in exchange for relaxing the sanctions; presumptive new Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel wrote an op-ed in support of the deal after previously opposing it. Could they utilize their leverage to pressure Trump into possibly re-entering the deal? Probably not, but this administration hasn’t shown much of a plan for Iran besides sanctions and Engel could seize this vacuum and play a larger role in strategy moving forward.

Russia has served as a large, black cumulonimbus cloud hanging over the Trump administration, from the Mueller investigation to allegations of election hacking and uncovered ties between them and members of the administration. Now that Democrats have control of the House, they can change the course of inaction set out by Trump on Russia and begin to formally push for sanctions on Russia for their misdeeds. They will likely want to take a strong stand against Russian shenanigans, and drawing up sanctions would be the first step in doing so. After that, they can begin to more strongly pressure the administration by subpoenaing documents and scheduling hearings related to the investigation, much like how Republicans handled the Benghazi scandal when they were in control of the house.

Saudi Arabia has also climbed its way up the list of US foreign policy priorities thanks in part to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Yemen War. The Saudis have faced worldwide condemnation over their handling of the Khashoggi murder, and mounting evidence points to them having direct involvement in his death. Democrats could use their control to call hearings and have administration members testify to what they know about his death and further push for sanctions and punishments for the Saudis. They could also vote to block arms deals between the countries as part of cracking down, and could make a large push to fully halt US involvement in the Yemen War.

Finally, having control of all three branches of government meant that world leaders and other countries were only able to see and hear Republicans on the issues of foreign policy. Now with Democrats in some capacity of control and appointed to key chairmanship positions, they can at least begin to try to offer a different narrative to the rest of the world regarding US interests. As with most of his presidency, Trump’s trials and tribulations in foreign policy so far have been well-documented, and other leaders may be yearning for someone else other than Trump or people tied to him to speak on what is happening in the world. They still won’t be the primary representatives of our country, but given their newfound leverage they could be on the cusp of providing an opposing voice to the administration worldwide in a higher capacity.