The House of Discontent

It took four years and some very bad mistakes (Iraq), but the Bush Administration realized sometime during its second term that international cooperation is a means to an end, a common sense tool that actually produces more results than a "my way or the highway attitude." The election of President Obama and recent advancements in the Middle East peace process, nuclear disarmament, and multilateral success at the United Nations has continued to swing the pendulum in the right direction. Unfortunately, Tuesday's midterm elections could stop this momentum in its tracks, if not force it in the opposite direction all together.

It's no secret that in the House of Representatives, Republican Chairmen-in-Waiting have been measuring the drapes for weeks. For Democrats and the Administration, losing control of the House could have serious and long lasting policy implications across the board, including the imminent derailment of Obama's foreign policy.

A glance into the crystal ball and the world of tomorrow shows a return to bully politics, and where words like "cooperation" and "engagement" are out of favor.

Let's take a look and see what a potential 112th Congress may look like.

First there's Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the current ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who is next in line for its Chairmanship.

In this Congress she has introduced legislation that threatens to strip funding from the United Nations, withhold contributions to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and continue the prohibition of American participation in the ICC.

Ros-Lehtinen wishes to return to the bad old days of American unilateralism. Her United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act, would not only prohibit the government from making contributions to the UN Human Rights Council, but would expressly forbid the U.S. from taking a seat at the table.

Her appetite for global disengagement doesn't stop there. As lead on the American Self-Defense Protection Act, she would forbid any funding from being used by government officials to participate in the International Criminal Court. This is a direct assault on the Obama Administration's current policy of active engagement with the Court, one which has allowed America's voice to be heard despite the fact that it is merely an observer.

And as representative of the large Cuban diaspora in South Florida, you can forget any additional good will overtures to the Cuban government. Expect a return of good old fashioned Cold War style anti-Castro rhetoric.

In the past, Democrats made sure that many isolationist initiatives never made it out of Committee, stuck in a perpetual legislative limbo. But with Republicans (and Ros-Lehtinen herself) controlling the agenda, expect it to change dramatically.

This shift will be felt on the floor of the House as well, where the agenda will be set by Eric Cantor, the presumptive Majority Leader.

Cantor is a fierce opponent to the Administration's recent Middle East peace overtures and opposes ratification of the New START anti-nuke treaty. He recently claimed the U.S. should "rededicate itself" to a foreign policy that seeks "peace through strength." Expect to see extremely hostile legislation aimed at inciting direct confrontation with the Administration's foreign policy plans.

The House and its 12 Appropriations "Cardinals" control the power of the purse. While the Obama Administration may submit whatever funding levels it wants when it comes to international aid budgets and foreign assistance packages, it is up to the powerful members of the House Appropriations Committee to draft the eventual language and levels that will become law. In a Republican House, that task would probably fall to Texan Republican Kay Granger, who this summer voiced concerns that we don't "increas[e] foreign aid at the expense of our troops."

Cantor also voiced his opinion on future foreign assistance levels when he recently told the Jewish Telegraphy agency that a Republican Congress would defund aid to countries that did not share U.S. interests.

Then there's the House Rules Committee, where members decide which amendments will be considered before the full House. In the past, it served as a firewall against Republican sponsored slash-and-burn defunding attempts. It was where efforts to strip U.N. and other international institutions of their dues were often blocked and prevented from reaching the floor. With Republicans in control during a recessionary period, armed with a renewed concern for government spending, expect to see some of these funding amendments actually reaching the floor.

I hope enough folks get out and vote on Tuesday so that this scenario is just a bad dream. This is our moment to keep the pendulum swinging towards a cooperative world with a better and safer future for us and future generations.