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Backgrounder: The Impact of the 110th Congress on U.S. Foreign Policy

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Robert McMahon, Deputy Editor

Updated: December 21, 2007


The 2006 elections brought Democratic majorities to the House of Representatives and the Senate, with a new leadership determined to change U.S. policy in Iraq. In the first year of the 110th Congress, Democratic lawmakers steadily challenged President Bush but failed to budge policy on Iraq. Their impact on other foreign policy issues was mixed. Their inability to pass legislation on immigration, domestic surveillance, and other chief issues contributed to sliding approval ratings in surveys like the USA Today/Gallup poll issued at the end of 2007. On the other hand, they fulfilled pledges to bolster some homeland security protections and passed an energy package with sweeping changes to vehicle fuel economy and other conservation efforts. And the Democratic leadership says it will continue to press for a timeline for withdrawing from Iraq, in part because of strong antiwar sentiments among party constituents.

How Much has the Democratic Congress Affected Iraq War Policy?

Very little. The 110th Congress took office in January 2007 just as President Bush was announcing his “surge” strategy involving an increase of about thirty thousand forces into hot spots in Baghdad and Anbar province. Congressional Democrats, pointing to what they said was an electoral mandate and public opinion surveys showing low support for the war, began early to try to link war-funding legislation to a withdrawal timeline. A bill passed by Congress in April 2007 was vetoed by President Bush and there were insufficient votes for an override. Other attempts in both chambers to establish withdrawal timelines were similarly thwarted by presidential veto threats and the solidarity of Republicans in the Senate, where Democrats hold only a slim majority.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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