Republicans Headed for Top Committee Posts Signal Change in Foreign Policy Priorities

November 4, 2010 - 5:01 AM
Received bad grades from liberal ‘global issues’ group

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, photographed here with Honduras’ then-interim President Roberto Micheletti on Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, has criticized the Obama administration on a range of foreign policy issues. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Republican lawmakers in line to chair important foreign policy-related committees and subcommittees in the new Republican-majority House of Representatives scored badly on a 2010 congressional report card compiled by a liberal anti-war organization that promotes “global issues” and supports U.S. participation in the United Nations “to solve the problems that we cannot solve alone.”

The grades given to the likely incoming Republican chairmen, compared with those of the outgoing Democrats, indicate that a very different mindset will prevail next year.

Lawmakers were rated by the political action committee of Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), an organization that focuses on issues such as climate change, peacekeeping, human rights, nonproliferation, and U.S. engagement with and support for the United Nations and other international institutions.

CGS PAC, which is not affiliated with any political party, endorses candidates and officials it deems “globally responsible.”

Of the 71 House and Senate candidates or incumbents it endorsed in the 2010 race, only two were Republicans – Rep. Joseph Cao (La.), the sole Republican vote for the health care reform legislation, who lost his re-election bid on Tuesday; and Rep. Michael Castle (Del.), who lost his party’s primary for the state’s Senate race to Tea Party-backed Christine O’Donnell.

Among the endorsed Democrats were Reps. Howard Berman (Calif.), Russ Carnahan, (Mo.) and Nita Lowey (N.Y.), all of whom have held important leadership positions in the 111th Congress.

Berman will now relinquish the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and Carnahan will leave the helm of that committee’s international organizations, human rights and oversight subcommittee, whose mandate includes the United Nations and sanctions relating to human rights and democracy.

Lowey gives up the chair of the Appropriations Committee’s state, foreign operations and related programs subcommittee, which oversees spending on diplomacy and development.

The CGS awards lawmakers grades ranging from A-plus to F, calculated from roll call votes on 11 key measures (see below), as well as extra credit for other contributions, including sponsorship of bills, floor speeches and op-eds promoting its “core issues.”

Berman and Carnahan both received an A-plus while Lowey received an A.

The ranking Republicans in line to replace them are, respectively, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), who got a C; Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) who was awarded a D; and Rep. Kay Granger (Tex.), who got an F.

Other senior Republican members of the Foreign Relations Committee include Reps. Dan Burton (Ind.) and Chris Smith (N.J.). CGS awarded them a D-minus and C-plus, respectively.

A similar pattern can be seen in the Armed Services Committee, where incoming chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California received an F from CGS while the outgoing Democratic chairman, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri – who lost his seat on Tuesday – earned an A.

In the Intelligence Committee, outgoing chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes (Tex.) was graded A. Ranking member Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) received a D, but he is retiring. The two Republicans thought to lead the running to become chairman are Rep. William Thornberry (Tex.), who earned a D-minus, and Rep. Michael Rogers (Mich.), who got an  F.

Conservative House Republicans differ with the Obama administration on a range of foreign policy-related issues, and are generally skeptical of the United Nations.

Ros-Lehtinen introduced legislation last year, which among other things called for a shift away from funding the U.N. on an assessed basis (where the U.S. liable for 22 percent of the operating budget and 25 percent of the peacekeeping costs) to a voluntary one.

Other foreign policy issues where clashes are possible and combative hearings arelikely include the U.S. embargo on Cuba, enforcement of sanctions against Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Afghanistan troop drawdown, relations with China and Russia, and missile defense.

The 11 legislative issues on which CGS based its ratings were:

-- International debt relief;

CGS recommended support; a majority of Republicans opposed the measure, which passed.

-- New corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks;

CGS recommended support; a majority of Republicans opposed the measure, which passed.

-- State Department operating budget authorization, including peacekeeping and contributions to international organizations;

CGS recommended support; a majority of Republicans opposed the measure, which passed.

-- Amendment to Defense authorization bill requiring taping of all interrogations of detainees in Defense Department custody;

CGS recommended support; a majority of Republicans opposed the measure, which passed.

-- Energy/“cap and trade” bill;

CGS recommended support; the measure passed with no Republican votes in favor.

-- State Foreign Operations appropriations, including foreign assistance;

CGS recommended support; a majority of Republicans opposed the measure, which passed.

-- Authorization for a Sudan crisis plan;

CGS recommended support; measure passed unanimously.

-- A measure requiring the State Department to include information on press freedom in its annual global human rights report;

CGS recommended support; the measure passed with most Republicans in favor.

-- Funding for the replacement warhead program;

CGS recommended opposition; most Republicans supported the measure, which failed.

-- An amendment withholding a proportion of funding to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), equal to the monetary value of nuclear technical cooperation the agency provided to Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba in 2007;

CGS recommended opposition; most Republicans supported the measure, which failed.

-- An amendment to decrease funding for diplomatic and consular programs and for USAID;

CGS recommended opposition; most Republicans supported the measure, which failed.