Although neither the House nor the Senate switched hands in the recent election, the chairpersons, along with many other influential members, of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will be changing. In Foreign Policy, Josh Rogin writes, “Several key committee leadership posts are changing hands, influential leaders are exiting Washington, and a new crop of national security lawmakers is looking to fill their void. The result could be a Congress that has less experience and fewer incentives to work across the aisle or cooperate with the executive branch, playing an increasing role of the spoiler in foreign policy.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) is next in line to replace House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), but the job is expected to go to Ed Royce (R-CA). House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA) lost his race to fellow Democrat Brad Sherman, and Eliot Engel (D-NY) is favored to replace him (FP), according to House aides. In the Senate, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) may also need to be replaced if he is tapped by President Obama to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
Significant changes are also expected on the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees and Subcommittees.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee was reelected on November 6 and will likely take over the ranking Republican spot on the Foreign Relations Committee, replacing Dick Lugar, who lost a primary bid in May.
“Corker has been a moderate voice on foreign policy as a committee member, often sounding a more cautious and non-interventionist note than some of his more hawkish colleagues,” writes Rogin. He also notes that “Corker has visited 48 countries over the past two years, often traveling commercial. He has been to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, India, Russia, Georgia, Afghanistan (3 times), Pakistan (3 times), and Iraq (3 times).” Corker supported the New START treaty, one of only three republicans
on the Foreign Relations Committee to do so. The other two Republicans to support the treaty were Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
He also told Foreign Policy that he would ensure the Senate passes a State Department authorization bill, something that hasn’t happened since 2005. He has questioned whether the Syrian revolution
is really about “democracy,” and does not support sending lethal arms to the opposition or calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.
Corker has been one of the most vocal critics of President Obama’s handling of the consulate attack in Benghazi and has questioned the policy of the continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and aid to Pakistan.
“His skepticism of military adventurism after more than a decade of war also happens to reflect where many in the GOP — and the country at large — are at right now, somewhere between the poles of McCain and Paul,” reports Roll Call.
–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri