Thursday, October 28, 2010
These four races could affect foreign policy debate
Congress may not be in charge of making foreign policy, but it sure can
influence its implementation. Since taking office in January 2009,
members of Congress - drawn primarily but not exclusively from the ranks
of the GOP - have slowed the Obama administration's efforts to advance
its strategy for dealing with Russia, Syria, Israel, Cuba and a host of
other countries. And the midterm elections won't be making things any
easier for President Obama.
Republican lawmakers stand to play a huge role in debates next year
about the promised July 2011 drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, whether
to maintain or increase U.S. foreign assistance packages, and how
strongly to press countries such as Russia and China to implement new
sanctions against Iran.
If current poll results hold, Republicans will make significant gains in
the Senate and probably will take the House, elevating a set of
lawmakers to new heights of power and complicating Obama's efforts to
execute his foreign policy agenda.
Here's a list of four GOP figures in the House who could be crucial
actors on the foreign policy stage when the dust settles after Tuesday's
The Virginia congressman, who is the House minority whip, could become
majority leader in a GOP-controlled House if Minority Leader John A.
Boehner (Ohio) is elected speaker. Cantor, who is particularly active in
foreign-policy issues involving Iran and Israel, could see his role
expand significantly if he is given the power to set the House floor agenda.
That could spell trouble for the administration's foreign operations
budget, which funds the State Department and sets levels for U.S.
non-military assistance around the world. Republicans are threatening to
withhold aid to countries they think aren't wholly supportive of the
United States, and Cantor told the Jewish Telegraph Agency recently that
the president's proposed budget might have to be rejected outright if
Republicans take power - after separating out U.S. aid for Israel.
If Republicans take the House, Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) is poised to take
over the House Foreign Affairs Committee and could drastically alter the
administration's agenda. For example, she is likely to scuttle the drive
to ease sanctions and travel restrictions on Cuba, which Chairman Howard
L. Berman (D-Calif.) supports. Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Havana, is
an active member of the Cuban American lobby.
Her ascendancy could also spell doom for Berman's bill on foreign-aid
reform. She argues often for more vetting of foreign aid in the hope of
finding cuts, and she has also introduced legislation to cut U.S.
funding for the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority.
A vocal critic of what she considers the Obama team's cool approach to
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Ros-Lehtinen could also use
the committee as a sounding board for those who want changes in the
administration's approach to Middle East peace. "She's no Dick Lugar,"
said one House aide, referring to her temperate Senate counterpart.
"You'll probably see a lot of contentious hearings."
Although not certain, it's likely that Granger (Tex.) would take over
the chairmanship of the House Appropriations subcommittee for State
Department and foreign operations if the GOP wins the House. That would
give her a large role in writing significant sections of the State
Department's funding bill. Although she supported the legislation put
forth this year by Chairman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), she criticized the
increases for the foreign-ops budget. She's a strong supporter of a
balanced budget amendment, which doesn't bode well for foreign-aid funding.
Granger also serves on the defense subcommittee, placing her at the
intersection of the debate over how to balance the national security
budget and shift resources from defense to diplomacy and development.
Royce (Calif.) is symbolic of GOP House members who are active in
foreign policy. He could become chairman again of the House Foreign
Affairs Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade subcommittee, where his
staff could hold hearings on the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan and
any other region sensitive to the administration's national security goals.