Corker Envisions Expansive Global Role for U.S.

Now that the GOP has won a solid majority in the U.S. Senate, Bob Corker appears the most likely candidate to chair the chamber’s Foreign Relations Committee.

And the wealthy former Chattanooga mayor has big plans for the United States playing a bigger role around the globe, both with respect to intervening militarily and forking out American taxpayer-financed foreign aid.

Corker appeared recently with Sen. Lamar Alexander in Hamilton County as part of a tour of roundtable discussions with medical-aid workers on the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa, and what Tennessee ought to be doing to prepare for the possibility of disease outbreak here.

In Corker’s estimation, the best place to fight Ebola is over there — in hopes we don;t have to fight it over here. There’s “no question” that the country needs to “ramp up our efforts to get ahead of this there,” which is why it was important that the U.S. military provides assistance to the affected African nations, Corker said at the Chattanooga Memorial Hospital event.

The most appropriate means for dealing with Ebola is the U.S. military, which is “the entity in our country that best responds to things like this,” said Corker.

His remarks echoed his earlier praise of the Obama administration’s decision to send U.S. troops into African Ebola zones. “The U.S. has a vital role to play in leading the global response to defeat this deadly outbreak, and I could not be more proud of our men and women in uniform who are always willing to answer the call to protect U.S. interests both at home and abroad,” Corker said in a Sept. 30 statement.

Corker, two years into his second six-year term, has recently discussed his foreign policy agenda with Tennessee news outlets and civic organizations across the state.  He told the Tennessean editorial board there’s a solid case to be made for the United States to get more involved in the affairs of other countries around the world.

Foreign aid is a particularly underfunded aspect of the U.S. budget , he said, noting that he parts ways on the issue with members of his party who advocate a humbler role on the international stage. While Corker acknowledged that aid can be wasted by recipient nations, when used properly, American tax dollars can be spent abroad to help head off global problems before they become crises.

Earlier this year, in the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian border conflict, Corker co-sponsored legislation that would have imposed broad sanctions on Russian finance, energy and defense sectors, as well as increase U.S. military and non-military aid to Ukraine. Last year, he was  a leading voice in Congress encouraging the Obama to launch airstrikes against Syria.

Immigration is another issue on which Corker says many in his party, both nationally and in Tennessee, are out of step with sound policy judgment. Speaking to civic groups in Columbia, Tenn., Corker recently chastised other Republicans — including all seven of the state’s Republican members of Congress — for referring to the Senate’s 2013 immigration reform bill as “amnesty.”

Both of Tennessee’s senators voted in favor of that legislation. Corker has characterized the current system as more akin to “amnesty,” while he’s said the Senate bill would have helped address the problem of people residing here illegally.