The most acute effect of the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 will be felt overseas, of course. But the tragic event is playing out in Washington, too.
The first immediate action will probably be the confirmation of Michael Lawson to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Congress has scheduled a vote on his confirmation for Monday. Lawson was nominated back in September to the ICAO, a U.N. Agency that establishes international aviation regulations. Since then, according to Roll Call, he has been caught up in the Republican protests over a change in the Senate filibuster rules to allow a simple majority vote for confirmations. Lawson—criticized for being a "mega-bundler" for Obama’s campaign—has been waiting for Senate action since the Foreign Relations Committee voted in May. He’s part of the backlog of 43 ambassadors waiting for confirmation. “A quarter of all American embassies are without an Ambassador,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday. “Senate Republicans, who have been so quick to accuse this administration of poor leadership on world issues, are obstructing the confirmation of ambassadors who are desperately needed at embassies around the world.”
Both Democrats and Republicans—Republicans Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, and the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel—have suggested stronger economic sanctions against Russia in response to the deaths of MH17’s 298 passengers, if it's determined that pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine were indeed responsible for shooting down the flight. Senator John McCain went further, saying there will be “hell to pay,” and called on the U.S. to provide Ukraine with weapons. On Wednesday, Obama announced the U.S.’s toughest sanctions yet, hitting Russia’s top firms and energy producers.
Otherwise, Republicans were quick to blame President Barack Obama’s leadership, pointing out that he attended two Democratic fundraisers in New York on Thursday night. “There's a direct loss of American lives here and the president goes to a fundraiser? Help me out,” McCain told Fox News on Thursday. Representative Peter King assailed Obama’s “failure of leadership” and “disgraceful” fundraiser. (As Brian Beutler points out, some jumped on the American death toll. On Friday, Obama confirmed that one American had died in the crash.)
Rebecca Leber is a staff writer for The New Republic.