Sunday, October 25, 2009

Considered Forthwith: Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Welcome to the 25th installment of "Considered Forthwith."

This weekly series looks at the various committees in the House and the Senate. Committees are the workshops of our democracy. This is where bills are considered, revised, and occasionally advance for consideration by the House and Senate. Most committees also have the authority to exercise oversight of related executive branch agencies.

This week, I am looking at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Two thoughts before proceeding. First, I am happy to be out of the newspaper business because I can say what I really think without worrying about objectivity. Second, what I really think is that the committee's website is in dire need of a redesign.


Here is the full committee membership:

Democrats: John Kerry, Massachusetts, chair; Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut; Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin; Barbara Boxer, California; Robert Menendez, New Jersey; Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland; Robert P. Casey Jr., Pennsylvania; Jim Webb, Virginia; Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire; Edward E. Kaufman, Delaware; Kirsten E. Gillibrand, New York


Richard G. Lugar, Indiana, ranking member; Bob Corker, Tennessee; Johnny Isakson, Georgia; James E. Risch, Idaho; Jim DeMint, South Carolina; John Barrasso, Wyoming; Roger F. Wicker, Mississippi; James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma

The Chairman

John Kerry is best known for his narrow loss in the 2004 presidential election.Perhaps that is for the best, though. Senator Kerry is now being credited with at least temporarily resolving the political crisis in Afghanistan. Kerry was in the country on an unrelated visit last week when President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got in touch. Kerry ended up convincing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to agree to a run-off election on Nov. 7. The original election was marred by allegations of widespread fraud. His efforts drew praise from the administration, though Kerry is trying to downplay the praise.

The Times of London had this to say of Kerry's recent work:

The patrician New Englander with the long face and helmet of grey hair has transformed himself over five days of shuttle diplomacy and, he says, “a thousand cups of tea” into Afghan election saviour, and the Administration’s pointman on President Karzai. He professes embarrassment when spoken of as a de facto Secretary of State, but when he speaks on Afghanistan at the Council on Foreign Relations today, Washington will listen as if he were — and with good reason.

Maybe Kerry was so successful because he some experience with shady election results.


Note: Use this direct link for the committee's statement of jurisdiction. The site's navigation is terrible and getting to the jursidiction page is difficult, if not impossible, without doing a Google search.

The committee has jurisdiction over pretty much every issue that affects relations between the United States and the rest of the world. This includes acquiring space for embassies, oversight of the World Bank and IMF (some jurisdiction shared with the Senate Banking Committee), non-trade treaties, and relations between the US and organizations like the UN and Red Cross. In addition, the committee is charged with holding confirmation hearings for foreign service appointments. Here is the committee's statement of jurisdiction:

(Excerpted from Rules of the Committee)

Rule 1 — Jurisdiction

(a) Substantive. — In accordance with Senate Rule XXV.1(j)(1), the jurisdiction of the Committee shall extend to all proposed legislation, messages, petitions, memorials, and other matters relating to the following subjects:

1. Acquisition of land and buildings for embassies and legations in foreign countries.

2. Boundaries of the United States.

3. Diplomatic service.

4. Foreign economic, military, technical, and humanitarian assistance.

5. Foreign loans.

6. International activities of the American National Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

7. International aspects of nuclear energy, including nuclear transfer policy.

8. International conferences and congresses.

9. International law as it relates to foreign policy.

10. International Monetary Fund and other international organizations established primarily for international monetary purposes (except that, at the request of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, any proposed legislation relating to such subjects reported by the Committee on Foreign Relations shall be referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs).

11. Intervention abroad and declarations of war.

12. Measures to foster commercial intercourse with foreign nations and to safeguard American business interests abroad.

13. National security and international aspects of trusteeships of the United States.

14. Ocean and international environmental and scientific affairs as they relate to foreign policy.

15. Protection of United States citizens abroad and expatriation.

16. Relations of the United States with foreign nations generally.

17. Treaties and executive agreements, except reciprocal trade agreements.

18. United Nations and its affiliated organizations.

19. World Bank group, the regional development banks, and other international organizations established primarily for development assistance purposes.

The Committee is also mandated by Senate Rule XXV.1(j)(2) to study and review, on a comprehensive basis, matters relating to the national security policy, foreign policy, and international economic policy as it relates to foreign policy of the United States, and matters relating to food, hunger, and nutrition in foreign countries, and report thereon from time to time.

(b) Oversight. — The Committee also has a responsibility under Senate Rule XXVI.8, which provides that “. . . each standing Committee . . . shall review and study, on a continuing basis, the application, administration, and execution of those laws or parts of laws, the subject matter of which is within the jurisdiction of the Committee.”

(c) “Advice and Consent” Clauses. — The Committee has a special responsibility to assist the Senate in its constitutional function of providing ``advice and consent'' to all treaties entered into by the United States and all nominations to the principal executive branch positions in the field of foreign policy and diplomacy.

The seven subcommittees have their own jurisdictions and are available at the link above.


We are all familiar with the coup in Honduras, but neighboring Nicaragua may become a new flash point in the region after the country's supreme court ruled that Daniel Ortega may seek reelection to the presidency. Ortega was the leader of the leftist Sandinistas which fought the US backed government in the 1980s. He took power in 1984, but lost the 1990 election. He returned to power in 2007 and the ruling essentially negates a rule saying presidents may not serve consecutive terms or more than two terms.

While neither the committee nor the rest of Congress has taken any formal action against Nicaragua, Kerry had this to say:

Nicaragua and Honduras are obviously different, but unconstitutional actions are unacceptable anywhere. President Ortega appears to be following the cues of the coup-plotters in Honduras, where the president of the Congress and the military have manipulated the Supreme Court to rationalize a coup d’etat, resist the restoration of democracy, and impose martial law repression.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was just one, but the most important and enduring, alliance set up to oppose the expansion of authoritarian socialism (i.e. communism). It is a formal mutual defense commitment among 28 countries in North America and Europe. (France is even back in the fold.) The key to the alliance's mutual defense pact is Article V:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the (U.N.) Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

Notice the wording "against one or more of them in Europe or North America." This is what kept the signatories from getting entangled in the 20th century colonial wars. It is also important to note that this article is not automatically in force. Instead, on nation must invoke the article to get help from the other allies. During the Cold War, of course, the assumption was that the theatre of war would have been Central Europe. No one could have foreseen the first formal invocation of Article V, after the 9/11 attacks, would put NATO forces in Central Asia, nor could most people have predicted that the country that invoked Article V would get distracted in the middle of the war and invade a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

At any rate, the committee's most recent hearing focused on the future of the alliance. (Note: click on the headline hotlink to watch the two hour hearing.) Earlier this year, NATO announced a review of its "strategic concept" and this hearing was part of America's review.

Kerry had this to say (.pdf link):

The Strategic Concept review is an important vehicle for NATO to evolve—recalibrating its priorities, re-inventing itself and preparing to protect the West from challenges new and old. That is why, even as we grapple with Afghanistan and other present concerns, it remains the right time for a public dialogue about NATO’s future.

Kerry also discussed the possibility of expanding NATO membership in the Balkans and to fast track membership for Ukraine and Georgia, moves that could irritate Russia. He also mentioned the impact that passage of the Libson Treaty would have on the alliance.

Ranking member Lugar had this to say (.pdf link):

The paramount question facing NATO today is how to strengthen the credibility of Article Five. Recent developments have eroded some of NATO’s deterrence value. This erosion has occurred as Members of the Alliance have expressed less enthusiasm for NATO expansion and found an increasing number of reasons to avoid committing forces to Afghanistan. The decline in the deterrent value of Article Five became more apparent with the onset of a string of energy crises in Europe and the adoption by several West European governments of “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies with respect to oil and natural gas arrangements with the Russian Federation.

The Obama Administration’s decision to alter missile defense plans also has implications for Alliance confidence in Article Five. Iranian missiles never constituted the primary rationale for Polish and Czech decisions to buy into the Bush Administration’s plan. Rather, it was the waning confidence in NATO, and Article Five in particular, that lent missile defense political credibility in those countries. The United States must be sensitive to events that have transpired in the broader European security environment since the Bush plan was proposed and negotiated. Our commitment to NATO remains the most important vehicle for projecting stability throughout Europe and even into regions of Asia and the Middle East. It is critical that we re-establish the credibility of these assurances.

Lugar does make some good points, but he ignores the fact that the United States has primary responsibility for the Afghan mission and George W. Bush and the Republicans shirked that responsibility by invading Iraq. It is not difficult to image some resentment from Europe and Canada over the perception that NATO is fighting America's war.

Other committee news

As I noted above, the committee staff does not do a great job with the site. They do not have future hearings or meetings listed, however, the most recent Senate schedule does not list any hearings of the committee either. However, the committee has recently held some interesting hearings.

Climate Change: The Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection held a hearing Oct. 15 to discuss the climate change crisis, particularly focusing on flooding, drought and refuges. The projected rise in ocean levels from melting ice caps is a serious threat to low lying countries like Bangladesh and island nations like Tuvalu.

Tuvalu is quite literally in danger of disappearing. The nation of 10,000 people is located on low-lying atolls that could disappear if ocean levels rise significantly. In Bangladesh, brackish water from the Indian Ocean is getting into the country's fresh water rivers and then into its lakes and groundwater. This means less fresh water for drinking and watering crops. That could lead to mass migrations of refuges in search of better land. Of course, the United States and China are the top contributors to Global Warming, but it is the Global South feeling the effects.

The witnesses for the hearing were:

Dr. Jim Ball
Senior Director
Climate Campaign
Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN)
Washington, DC

Mr. David Waskow
Climate Change Program Director
Oxfam America
Washington, DC

Mr. Kenneth P. Green
Resident Scholar
American Enterprise Institute
Washington, DC

Note: You may remember the American Enterprise Institute from their decision two years ago to offer $10,000 to any "scientist" who would debunk a major Global Warming study. Even now, Mr. Green says we should adapt to climate change rather than, you know, do anything to try to reverse it.

Mr. Peter O'Driscoll
Executive Director
ActionAid USA
Washington, DC

General Charles F. Wald (USAF, Ret.)
Former Deputy Commander of United States European Command
Director and Senior Advisor
Aerospace & Defense Industry Deloitte
Washington, DC

Nuclear power for UAE The United States and the United Arab Emirates are close to a deal that would provide the UAE with assistance in building nuclear power plants. The subcommittee on Near Eastern, and South and Central Asian Affairs heard testimony on the deal Oct. 7. Neither the committee nor Congress made any move to block the deal, which includes specific pledges that would keep UAE from sharing any nuclear material with Iran.

Via Reuters:

Congress could have blocked the deal by passing a resolution of disapproval before the end of the 90-day review period last Saturday. Despite concerns some lawmakers raised about the UAE's relationship with Iran, there was no push in the Senate or House of Representatives for a vote.

The Obama administration calls the pact a model for the region that contains several unprecedented commitments that ensures the UAE will not use American technology to develop a nuclear weapon or to help others in the region do that.

Reuters also tells us that the deal will be lucrative to certain US companies:

The pact, which President Barack Obama approved in May and sent to Congress for a 90-day review period, is potentially worth billions of dollars to General Electric Co (GE.N) and Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp (6502.T).

Nominations: The Subcommittee on European Affairs held the committee's most recent round of nomination hearings Oct. 8. Let's meet the newly minted ambassadors:

William Kennard, an executive at Carlyle Group, to be the US Representative to the European Union.

James Legarde Hudson, Chairman of JAH Development Co. (a venture capital projects company), to be United States Director for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

John F. Tefft, a career foreign service employee, to be ambassador to Ukraine. He has previously served as ambassador to Lithuania and was involved in the START arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union in 1985.

Michael C. Polt, another foreign service officer, to be ambassador to Estonia. He previously served as ambassador to Serbia.

Cynthia Stroum of Seattle to be ambassador to Luxembourg. She is a business investor, arts supporter and major Democratic donor.

Other recent hearings of the committee have focused on Afghanistan strategy, radio broadcasting in war zones, transnational child custody cases, worldwide violence against women, and American policy toward Burma and Zimbabwe.


The committee has seven subcommittees. Their full jurisdictions and chairs and ranking members are listed here.

For more information, see my past work:

House Foreign Affairs Committee
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Joint Committee on Taxation
House Oversight Committee
Conference Committees
Senate and House Budget Committees
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Senate and House Armed Services Committees
Small Business Committees
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
The Committee Primer
House Education and Labor Committee
Senate Finance Committee
Senate HELP Committee
Senate Judiciary Committee
House Energy and Commerce Committee
House Ways and Means Committee
House and Senate Appropriations Committees
House Intelligence Committee
House Judiciary Committee
House and Senate Ethics Committees
House Science and Technology Committee
House Financial Services Committee
House Rules Committee
The Role of Committees

This entry is posted at Congress Matters, Daily Kos, Progressive Electorate, Docudharma, and my own blog.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Considered Forthwith: House Foreign Affairs Committee

Welcome to the 24th installment of "Considered Forthwith."

This weekly series looks at the various committees in the House and the Senate. Committees are the workshops of our democracy. This is where bills are considered, revised, and occasionally advance for consideration by the House and Senate. Most committees also have the authority to exercise oversight of related executive branch agencies.

Reality got in the way the past two weeks, but I am finally back. This week, Considered Forthwith will examine the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. This committee has considerably less official authority than its Senate counterpart. Notably, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over treaties and appointments -- including ambassadorships -- as as required by the Constitution. I plan to examine that committee next week.

This week, however, I will be looking at the committee that dates back to the early days of the Revolution.


Howard Berman of California is the chair of the committee and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida is the ranking member. Berman is a solid progressive, but he did vote for the 2003 Iraq invasion and the 2008 Patriot Act amendments. However, he also voted for the Kucinich resolution to investigate Bush on lies leading to the Iraq war.

He is also a staunch supporter of Israel, saying in 2008, when he took over the chairmanship from the late Tom Lantos:

Even before I was a Democrat, I was a Zionist

Here is the rest of the committee membership:

Democrats: Howard Berman, California, Chairman; Gary Ackerman, New York; Eni Faleomavaega, American Samoa; Donald M. Payne, New Jersey; Brad Sherman, California; Robert Wexler, Florida; Eliot Engel, New York; Bill Delahunt, Massachusetts; Gregory Meeks, New York; Diane Watson, California; Adam Smith, Washington; Russ Carnahan, Missouri; Albio Sires, New Jersey; Gerry Connolly, Virginia; Michael McMahon, New York; John S. Tanner, Tennessee; Gene Green, Texas; Lynn Woolsey, California; Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas; Barbara Lee, California; Shelley Berkley, Nevada; Joseph Crowley, New York; Mike Ross, Arkansas; Brad Miller, North Carolina; David Scott, Georgia; Jim Costa, California; Keith Ellison, Minnesota; Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona; Ron Klein, Florida

Republicans: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida, Ranking Member; Chris Smith, New Jersey; Dan Burton, Indiana; Elton Gallegly, California; Dana Rohrabacher, California; Donald Manzullo, Illinois; Ed Royce, California; Ron Paul, Texas; Jeff Flake, Arizona; Mike Pence, Indiana; Joe Wilson, South Carolina; John Boozman, Arkansas; J. Gresham Barrett, South Carolina; Connie Mack, Florida; Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska; Michael McCaul, Texas; Ted Poe, Texas; Bob Inglis, South Carolina; Gus Bilirakis, Florida


The committee has jurisdiction over pretty much every issue that affects relations between the United States and the rest of the world, including international drug trafficking. Here is the committee's statement of jurisdiction:

The Full Committee will be responsible for oversight and legislation relating to: foreign assistance (including development assistance, Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Millennium Challenge Account, HIV/AIDS in foreign countries, security assistance, and Public Law 480 programs abroad); the Peace Corps; national security developments affecting foreign policy; strategic planning and agreements; war powers, treaties, executive agreements, and the deployment and use of United States Armed Forces; peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and enforcement of United Nations or other international sanctions; arms control and disarmament issues; the United States Agency for International Development; activities and policies of the State, Commerce and Defense Departments and other agencies related to the Arms Export Control Act, and the Foreign Assistance Act including export and licensing policy for munitions items and technology and dual-use equipment and technology; international law; promotion of democracy; international law enforcement issues, including narcotics control programs and activities; Broadcasting Board of Governors; embassy security; international broadcasting; public diplomacy, including international communication, information policy, international education, and cultural programs; and all other matters not specifically assigned to a subcommittee.

The Full Committee will have jurisdiction over legislation with respect to the administration of the Export Administration Act, including the export and licensing of dual-use equipment and technology and other matters related to international economic policy and trade not otherwise assigned to a subcommittee and with respect to the United Nations, its affiliated agencies and other international organizations, including assessed and voluntary contributions to such organizations.

The Full Committee may conduct oversight with respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the Committee as defined in the Rules of the House of Representatives.

The seven subcommittees have their own jurisdiction and I have provided links at the end.

Iran Sanctions

The Committee has scheduled a mark up of HR 2475, the "Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act" for Oct. 28, beginning at 10 a.m. I can't figure out if the markup with be available via webcast (assuming that C-Span does not show it live.) If it is available on line, the link should appear here.

Berman introduced the bill at the end of April and currently has 330 co-sponsors. The act, as currently written:

Amends the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 to direct the President to impose two or more current sanctions under such Act if a person has, with actual knowledge, made an investment of $20 million or more (or any combination of investments of at least $5 million which in the aggregate equals or exceeds $20 million in any 12-month period) that directly and significantly contributed to Iran's ability to develop its petroleum resources. (Under current law the sanction thresholds are $40 million, $10 million, and $40 million, respectively.)

This is what is meant by the Traditional Media meme of "tightening sanctions." If the bill passes intact, Americans could only invest $20 in Iran's oil refining efforts, rather than the current level of $40 million. I would expect the significant amendments to focus on moving those numbers higher or lower. I also suspect that the White House quietly asked Chairman Berman not to advance the legislation while President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton publicly and privately tried diplomacy. Should this bill pass by a veto-proof margin -- and there is little reason to think it would not -- the American diplomats can blame the new sanctions on Congress while continuing diplomacy.

The companion bill in the Senate, is S 908. It was introduced by Evan Bayh two days before the House bill and has been sitting in the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee ever since. It has 75 cosponsors.

(Hint for anyone using Thomas LOC: the link for CRS summary provides a plain language statement of what the bill does as currently written.)


Saying that Burma has a spotty human rights record is like saying torture is a bit uncomfortable. Ever since the 1962 coup, the military junta has brutally suppressed democratization efforts and human rights is the last thing on the rulers' minds. The United States certainly has an interest in seeing a democratic Burma. The problem is that Burma's neighbors are more interested in the country's mineral resources than the well-being of the country's people. Specifically, China has close ties with Burma and has been funding numerous infrastructure projects in the country in spite of recent ethnic violence in the border region. Burma has scheduled elections next year, but the U.S. State Department is not particularly optimistic that the elections will be free and fair and the British said at the beginning of this year that elections would simply entrench the military government.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, Oct. 21, to discuss the issue of Burma. As I have discussed before, Congressional hearings do not result in new policy, but they do allow both members and witnesses to grab headlines and possibly set the news agenda.

The committee will hear from:

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
U.S. Department of State

Tom Malinowski
Advocacy Director
Human Rights Watch

Chris Beyrer, M.D., MPH
Professor of Epidemiology, International Health, and Health, Behavior, and Society
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Aung Din
Executive Director
U.S. Campaign for Burma

Aung Din spent more than four years in prison -- sometimes in solitary confinement, naked, in total darkness -- after organizing and leading Burma’s nationwide pro-democracy uprising in August 1988 as vice chairman of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions. ABFSU, the largest student organization in Burma, is outlawed by the ruling military junta.

Other committee news

Northern Ireland: The Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight will hold a hearing regarding allegations of collusion between police and paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. The implication is that the British government implicitly supported Loyalist/Protestant armed groups against the IRA and other Republcan/Catholic groups during the "Troubles." Witnesses include a man whose father was killed by Loyalists and another man whose son was killed by Republicans. Both men previously met with President Bush in 2007.

Violence against women: The Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight will hold a hearing Wednesday, Oct. 21, to discuss worldwide violence against women. It should go without saying that the problem is not insignificant. A recent ten-country study by the World Health Organization found that:

Between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner.

Many women said that their first sexual experience was not consensual. (24% in rural Peru, 28% in Tanzania, 30% in rural Bangladesh, and 40% in South Africa).

Between 4% and 12% of women reported being physically abused during pregnancy.


About 5,000 women are murdered by family members in the name of honour each year worldwide.

Trafficking of women and girls for forced labour and sex is widespread and often affects the most vulnerable.

Forced marriages and child marriages violate the human rights of women and girls, but they are widely practiced in many countries in Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.

Worldwide, up to one in five women and one in 10 men report experiencing sexual abuse as children. Children who experience sexual abuse are much more likely to encounter other forms of abuse later in life.

The committee will hear from Rep. Jan Schakowsky; Melanne Verveer Ambassador-at-Large, Office of Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State; Mallika Dutt, Founder and Executive Director of Breakthrough; and actress and activist Nicole Kidman.

So why would the committee invite a celebrity to testify? Let's face it. More people have heard of Nicole Kidman than Mallika Dutt. Kidman's star power will inevitably make more reporters, including the celebrity rags, take notice to the hearing and more people will be interested in reading about it. This is strategic thinking by the committee chair to increase interest in the hearing and possibly increase pressure to take action on the problem.

International Child abduction
: The Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight will hold a hearing Oct. 29 on the problem of international child abduction. The problem is addressed by the Child Abduction Section of the Hague Convention. As with any transnational crime, enforcement can be a difficult matter. Obviously, child custody law varies by country. If a parent takes a child to another country and refuses to return, the other parent may go through a bureaucratic nightmare to get the child back. This was at the heart of the Elian Gonzalez affair in 2000.

The hearing will include testimony from Patrick Braden of Los Angeles. Braden's daughter was taken to Japan by her non-custodial mother in 2006. Japan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. Also testifying will be George David Goldman of New Jersey. His now late wife took their son, Sean, to Brazil. The boy's new step father, a lawyer, is fighting for custody. The situation has created a low-level diplomatic row between the United States and Brazil.

Both governments have indicated that they consider the decision by Goldman's wife, Bruna Bianchi, to move Sean to Brazil in 2004 a violation of the Hague Abduction Convention, an international treaty that seeks to determine whether children have been wrongfully removed from their country of habitual residence.

The State Department, as well as the Brazilian government authority that deals with the treaty, has called for Sean's return to the United States. But the case remains in federal court in Brazil awaiting a ruling on whether the treaty has been violated.

Join the conversation

The committee has an innovative feature on its website. They offer a link to "Join the Conversation." Currently, they are soliciting citizen input on foreign assistance reform. USAID has more information about the issue.


If you remember U.S. history, you may recall the Committee on Correspondence that was established during the Revolution. The committee in its current from traces its history back to this Committee on Correspondence, which was chaired by Benjamin Franklin and charged with representing the nascent nation in its relations with Europe. Later, in the early years of Congress, committees were only formed as needed. In 1807, for example, a committee was formed to deal with British and French forces preying on American shipping. This was the era of the Napoleonic Wars and both countries needed all of the sailors they could find. On the high seas, American soldiers were vulnerable to impressment. This was one of the main issues that led to the War of 1812.

Ten years after the war, the House established the standing committee on foreign affairs. Even though the Executive Branch traditionally takes the lead in foreign relations, the committee was able to use the "power of the purse" to push for important foreign policies like Marshall Plan to help Western Europe recover from World War II and to end American involvement in Vietnam. The Subcommittee on Africa worked on sanctions against South Africa to force an end to apartheid and the bill passed over President Reagan's veto.

Read more history here.


There are seven subcommittees. In the interest of keeping this post somewhat short, I will dispense with the usual details. Here is a link to the subcommittees page. The subcommittees are:

Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health
Chairman Donald M. Payne
Ranking Member Christopher H. Smith

Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment
Chairman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega
Ranking Member Donald A. Manzullo

Subcommittee on Europe
Chairman Robert Wexler
Ranking Member Elton Gallegly

Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade
Chairman Brad Sherman
Ranking Member Edward R. Royce

Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight
Chairman Bill Delahunt
Ranking Member Dana Rohrabacher

Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
Chairman Gary L. Ackerman
Ranking Member Dan Burton

Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Chairman Eliot L. Engel
Ranking Member Connie Mack

Next week I will look at the committee's Senate counterpart.

For more information, see my past work:

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Joint Committee on Taxation
House Oversight Committee
Conference Committees
Senate and House Budget Committees
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Senate and House Armed Services Committees
Small Business Committees
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
The Committee Primer
House Education and Labor Committee
Senate Finance Committee
Senate HELP Committee
Senate Judiciary Committee
House Energy and Commerce Committee
House Ways and Means Committee
House and Senate Appropriations Committees
House Intelligence Committee
House Judiciary Committee
House and Senate Ethics Committees
House Science and Technology Committee
House Financial Services Committee
House Rules Committee
The Role of Committees

This entry is posted at Congress Matters, Daily Kos, Progressive Electorate, Docudharma, and my own blog.