Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole opened an unexpected second front Wednesday in the Republicans’ battle with President Clinton: foreign policy.
The Kansas senator said he may try to block any spending to implement Clinton’s nuclear weapons deal with North Korea, and he introduced bills to lift the U.N. arms embargo on Bosnia and slash U.S. spending on U.N. peacekeeping missions, including the current deployment of troops in Haiti.
If Congress’ new GOP majority follows his lead, it would be a major break from a long-standing - if not always honored - tradition of bipartisanship in foreign policy.
“Where we can cooperate, we plan to cooperate, … particularly in areas of foreign policy,” Dole said, invoking the bipartisan ideal.
But he said he would seek early Senate hearings on the Clinton administration’s deal with North Korea, and aides said he actively is considering trying to stop the arrangement.
Under the agreement negotiated last year, North Korea agreed to stop producing plutonium in exchange for an estimated $4 billion in aid, almost all of it provided by South Korea and Japan. But the United States agreed to supply about $4.7 million worth of fuel oil this month to help meet the communist country’s immediate energy needs.
Dole has called the pact “a lousy deal,” objecting particularly to any U.S. aid to North Korea.
White House officials, hoping to head Dole off, warned he is making a political mistake. “I’m not sure the Republicans will get away with across-the-board opposition” on foreign policy, a senior official said. “I think the Republicans have to be selective in where they confront the administration, or the American people will conclude that this is simply partisanship.”
The White House official also said the deal with North Korea “is working. We have frozen the North Korean (nuclear) program.”
Dole, 71, has said he may run for the Republican nomination for president next year.
Dole’s bill on Bosnia would require Clinton to break with the U.N. arms embargo by May 1 and allow U.S. weapons to flow to the Muslim-led government there unless peace has been achieved.
The State Department criticized the proposal, saying it could disrupt the recently won cease-fire and could lead to a need for U.S. troops to enter the conflict. “It is just the wrong thing to do at this very important point,” State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said.
But Dole said the threat of U.S. arms shipments would provide “leverage” to force Bosnian Serb rebels, who have been winning on the battlefield, to make a deal with the Bosnian government.
Dole’s peacekeeping bill would restrict U.S. support for U.N. peacekeeping operations by requiring the administration to find the money to pay for any future missions before voting for them in the U.N. Security Council. And it would slash funding by counting any money spent on U.S. missions like the Haiti operation against the U.S. contribution to the United Nations.
That provision, if in effect now, would stop the administration from paying for any further U.N. operations in Haiti. But a Dole aide said it probably won’t have any practical effect in Haiti because the law isn’t in force yet.