March 13, 2015
The news that 47 Republican Senators wrote to Iran’s leader, inserting themselves in the delicate negotiations over nuclear weapons development is simply stunning, even in today’s hyper-partisan environment. I disagreed with President Bush on almost everything but I respected him and his office, and would never have sought to undermine him the way that this letter undermines President Obama.
Quite plainly, the letter that 47 Republican Senators sent is a show of disrespect for the Office of the President of the United States and disregard for the Constitutional separation of powers. To tell Iran’s leader that any agreement negotiators craft essentially means nothing once President Obama leaves office is more than an escalation in tensions between Republicans in the Senate and the White House. It is troubling constitutionally. Make no mistake; this letter represents more than just misplaced concern over complicated negotiations. It undermines the ability of the President and the Department of State to conduct foreign policy and threatens the President as Commander-in-Chief. Criticism is legitimate, but this time, 47 Republican critics went too far.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about history and if there is any precedent for action like this. I recall the end of World War I when, in 1920, Republicans then in the Senate sabotaged United States entry into the League of Nations. This ultimately made it more difficult for the world to thwart aggression by Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Imperial Japan. Regardless, at least that Republican Senate respected the Office of the President (if not the President himself) and the powers vested in that office by the Constitution. They waited until negotiations were concluded and the Treaty of Versailles was presented to them before they acted.
Today’s Senate Republicans couldn't even give the Obama Administration the courtesy of waiting to see what the deal looks like before trying to derail it.
Green Line Extension
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, widely recognized as the state's premier public policy organization on fiscal, tax and economic policies, released a report this week on the status of the MBTA.
This is an organization that tries to avoid partisanship and ideological purity tests which is one of the reasons why they are so widely respected. The report details many suggestions on how to fix the MBTA, and calls for a temporary halt in MBTA expansion. This argument has been echoed by others, but too many critics do not take into account the progress made on some projects and the impact they will have when completed.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, however, recognizes that not all projects should be stopped. Here is how they put it in their report: “Before the MBTA undertakes any further expansion (with the exception of the Green Line Extension), it must get its current fiscal house in order.” I fully agree – the Green Line Extension needs to move forward.
I met this week with the new President of Draper Lab in Cambridge. We talked at length about the vital role that Draper has played in defense related research and in solidifying Cambridge’s relevance as a high technology and research magnet. New President Ken Gabriel shared with me his goal of expanding Draper Lab’s research into more civilian applications. I’ve met with Draper officials over the years, and have had the opportunity to visit the facilities. I always enjoy learning about their latest research.
I met with officials from the Brighton Marine Health Center (BMHC). The center is planning a campus renovation and they shared some of those details with me. We also spoke at length about potential changes to the military’s TRICARE Prime, called the US Family Health Plan. These changes could impact both BMHC and plan participants. BMHC is the only location in Massachusetts and Southern New England that provides services under this plan. TRICARE is a health plan for uniformed services personnel and their dependents. It is also available for qualified retired uniformed services personnel and their dependents. Many families rely on TRICARE and BMHC is making sure that they are fully informed as plan changes are considered. I thanked them for keeping me updated on what the changes could mean for families locally.
American Jewish Committee
I met with recently with constituents from the American Jewish Committee. We discussed several troubling issues, and I was impressed by their realism. They were concerned, as I am, about the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran. Like me, they would like to give negotiations a chance to succeed. They expressed a degree of skepticism about Iran’s trustworthiness. I told them I would not take military force off the table but felt that talk of military action was premature. We also talked about the alarming resurgence of anti-Semitism in Western Europe and about efforts to depict Israel as an “apartheid” state on some US campuses. I reiterated my opposition to “boycott, sanctions, and divestment” campaigns against Israel and recalled the successful effort to defeat a divestment referendum in Somerville.
What’s Up Next
The next House votes are scheduled for Monday March 16th. At this writing, a floor schedule is not available.