Over the next two years, US Congress will influence Asia-relevant issues of consequence for Australia, including China policy, diplomacy with North Korea and the size of the defence budget. 

In a new policy brief published today by the United States Studies Centre, Non-Resident Fellow Dougal Robinson writes that Republican-led Senate committees, under new leaders who are broadly supportive of President Trump’s agenda, are likely to be less independent or influential than in the last Congress. However, Democrats’ majority in the House of Representatives will facilitate oversight of and investigations into Trump and heightened scrutiny of Asia policy. 

"Broad bipartisan support in Congress for the Trump administration’s tougher approach to China — but not necessarily his methods such as tariffs — will empower the administration," Robinson said.

"Expect plenty more scrutiny of China’s global activities in Congress, whether on military issues, cyber, human rights or influence operations. Also expect House Democrats to use their leverage to push for lower defence spending, which has also been favoured by many Democratic presidential hopefuls."

Key points

  • Congress plays an important albeit underappreciated role in shaping US Asia policy.
  • There is widespread expectation in Washington that Congress may cut defence spending, delay appropriations for the Pentagon, or both.
  • Congress will, on some issues, be a useful supporter of ‘status quo’ positions and robust US engagement and leadership in Asia.

View policy brief

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