Foreign Policy & National Security

January 23, 2023: Foreign Policy Achievements of Nancy Pelosi

Posted on January 23, 2023 at 12:00 AM

By Cynthia Efird, Member, Foreign Policy & National Security Task Force

During her more than 35 years in Congress and her 20 years as House Speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi embodied the legislative leadership attributes called for by the Constitution. She wrote, negotiated within and across party lines, and achieved passage of crucial legislation—most notably recently the American Care Act, the American Rescue Plan, the Inflation Reduction Action, and the CHIPS and Science Act—that affects every American for the better, with progress on health care, economic security, climate action, and increasingly equal opportunities for all US citizens. She brought into effect a new GI education bill for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and increased services for veterans and caregivers and funding for the Veterans Administration.

She held administrations, both Democratic and Republican, to account. She criticized unnecessary wars, effectively used the Congressional power of the purse to shape executive actions and to streamline administration. Above all, she spoke for the bedrock democratic values that have grounded the American experiment from its inception.

Her legislative accomplishments on the domestic front are perhaps best known, but she has also played a crucial role in ensuring that American values are in the forefront of the conduct of foreign affairs. During the Obama Administration, she strengthened America’s security by defeating the Republicans’ effort to disapprove of the landmark Iran Nuclear Agreement that halted Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon for several years before the Trump Administration recklessly reneged on the US commitment. 

Despite Trump’s short-term, ill-conceived years, she led large congressional delegations to Europe, Central America, and Asia to reassure our allies and warn our enemies that US support for friends would remain firm despite short-term, ill-conceived nods at America-First policies. She also teamed up with the Congressional Black Caucus to travel to Ghana to mark the 400th anniversary of the slave trade from Africa.

Most importantly, she has consistently spoken up against the egregious violations of the human rights of the people and minorities under Chinese Communist rule and against the PRC’s aggressive posture toward Taiwan and other neighbors. This strong commitment dates back to 2007, when she introduced a resolution that condemned the execution of the peaceful protestors following the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989. She has ensured a bipartisan approach toward China and US support in international fora for the Uyghur communities, the citizens of Hong Kong, and the Tibetan people.

In 2022, she became the first House Speaker and highest-ranking US official to travel to Taiwan in almost three decades, a visit that reaffirmed America’s unwavering support for the people of Taiwan. Many commentators feared that the visit would rile the leaders of China. And, indeed, that regime launched ballistic missiles near Taiwan, conducted unprecedented military drills, and dispatched fighter and naval warships across the Taiwan Straits’ median line. China also ceased to work with the United States on climate change and military ties for a short period before President Joe Biden met with President Xi on the sidelines of the G-20 summit a few weeks later.

This sequence of steps, however, is exactly what the Founding Fathers expected when they divided foreign policy responsibilities between the Executive and Legislative branches. The President is responsible for command of the military, but Congress is responsible for the regulation of foreign commerce. The President makes treaties, but Congress must ratify them. The President appoints diplomats, but the Senate must consent.

Having worked as a diplomat in the Executive Branch for almost 40 years, I am well aware at how exasperating congressional “interference” in foreign policy can seem to those in the State Department just trying to get “something” done. As actors in a world that we cannot control, we often need to “hold our nose,” sacrificing some objectives to achieve existential national security ends. But such sacrifices must always be reluctant and with full recognition that our values remain important and are sacred to the people of the United States.

A responsible and experienced leader like Representative Pelosi rightly holds all of us in any administration to this high standard of commitment to ideals. As she herself said in an interview with the Associated Press, “This isn’t about me. It’s about our country and our shared values, to show our strength of who we are, and what we believe.” We have been fortunate to have had Nancy Pelosi as our Speaker of the House, a respected voice on the global stage, a true citizen of our country and defender of its Constitution. We now have a new Speaker, chosen in chaos and lacking the experience and moral sure-footedness of his predecessor. We will continue to look, however, to Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California, in her continuing role in the House to support the Republic’s values and further its domestic and foreign goals.

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