Last year, Kerry and McCain were outspoken in pushing for a no-fly zone over Libya as Moammar Gadhafi’s forces attacked rebels and citizens. This month, they stood together in arguing for the disabilities treaty against staunch Republican opposition and complaints that it could undermine U.S. national sovereignty.
The pact fell five votes short of ratification, and Kerry called it “one of the saddest days I’ve seen” in his years in the Senate.
“Today I understand better than ever before why Americans have such disdain for Congress and just how much must happen to fix the Senate so we can act on the real interests of our country,” he said.
Kerry has traveled extensively for the administration. In May, he traveled to Afghanistan as a strategic partnership agreement loomed large in the decade-plus war. He was in Pakistan last year in the midst of a diplomatic crisis after Raymond Davis, a CIA-contracted American spy, was accused of killing two Pakistanis.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, traveled to Pakistan around that time and recalled Kerry’s influence.
“I arrived in Islamabad I think five days after Ray Davis had been taken into a jail in the Punjab and was at very real risk of being hauled out of the jail and lynched,” Coons said. “Sen. Kerry was about to show up and negotiate on behalf of the administration. And it was clear that both the diplomats and the military folks we met with viewed him as a real man of credibility and experience who was likely to contribute meaningfully to those negotiations.”
Davis pleaded self-defense. After weeks of wrangling between the U.S. and Pakistan, he was released in exchange for “blood money” paid to the dead men’s relatives.
This year, Kerry has presided over committee hearings on treaties and other major issues, but there has been little legislative work. He didn’t draw much attention to the committee, avoiding possible embarrassments for the administration in an election year.
Corker said he would have liked for the committee to devote more time to events in Libya, Syria and other countries.
“I think he’s tried to accommodate our concerns and at the same time seek a balance … giving the administration the headroom they needed to do what he and the administration felt was best. I understand that,” he said, speaking of Kerry.
Coons said Kerry’s deliberate work is often behind the scenes.
“The role of the chairman … is not always getting your picture taken with George Clooney, standing around with heads of state, going to receptions in Foggy Bottom,” he said. “It’s also lots and lots of time listening to folks who’ve got concerns whether it’s on behalf of the defense community, the business community, the diplomatic community and being the person who’s at the intersection of all that and trying to keep the Senate productively engaged in a very dangerous world with a lot of emerging threats.”