New House Foreign Affairs Committee takes shape

New House Foreign Affairs Committee takes shape

The House Foreign Affairs Committee and its staff have new leadership following a series of decisions by the incoming chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA).

"I am pleased to announce these Subcommittee chairmen, all of whom will be valuable members of the Foreign Affairs Committee leadership team and critical to fulfilling the important mission of the Committee," Royce said in a Tuesday statement, in which he revealed that the committee will now have 46 members: 25 Republicans and 21 Democrats. "This slate of chairmen brings to the Committee leadership a vital mix of seasoned experience and fresh perspective. Together, we will address some of the gravest threats facing the United States — chief among them Iran’s nuclear program."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who had to give up the chair due to committee term limits, will go back to chairing the subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. The previous chair of that subcommittee, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), will move over to head the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-IL), who led the Asia subcommittee in the last Congress, retired and how heads the Korea Economic Institute.

The committee’s most vocal and controversial leader, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), will no longer lead the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, because that subcommittee will be shut down. Royce’s team decided that oversight and investigations should be conducted by the full committee staff, according to committee sources, and there was some angst about Rohrabacher’s freelancing and penchant for stirring up international incidents, such as when he called the Pakistanis "hardcore, two-faced enemies" or when he got banned from Afghanistan by President Hamid Karzai.

Rohrabacher will be given the subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and North Africa, where he won’t be able to do as much damage. The previous chair of that subcommittee, Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), also retired.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), last in the news for his advocacy on behalf of blind Chinese activist Cheng Guangcheng, will retain control over the subcommittee on Africa, global health, global human rights, and international organizations. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) will replace Royce as chair of the subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation, and trade. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) will chair the subcommittee on the western hemisphere, following the electoral defeat of Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL).

The staff of the committee also will have new leadership. Longtime Ros-Lehtinen chief of staff Yleem Sarmiento de Poblete has left. She was known for running her shop with an iron fist. Royce has brought on Tom Sheehy, his subcommittee staff director, to be the next staff director of the full committee. His deputy staff director will be Edward Burrier.

Royce is said to want to make the committee more relevant, more bipartisan, and more productive than it was during Ros-Lehtinen’s tenure, when Democrats and Republicans agreed on little and most of their legislation never saw the light of day in the Senate.

"In the 113th Congress, the Committee will also work to boost U.S. economic growth overseas, provide effective oversight of the Obama administration’s foreign policies, give a greater focus to Asia, respond to security threats and new governments in the Middle East, and provide aggressive oversight of foreign aid," Royce said.