113th Congress May Do Slightly Less Harm to U.S. Interests in the Middle East

Article excerpt

With an increased Democratic margin in the Senate and a slightly lower Republican margin in the House, as well as changes to key congressional committees, the 113th Congress may see somewhat less Republican obstructionism to President Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda. However, both houses of Congress will remain staunchly pro-Israel, although perhaps a bit less stridently pro-Likud.

Democrats gained two seats in the Senate, and now have 53 seats to the Republicans' 45. Two Independents, Sens. Bernie Sanders (VT) and newly elected Angus King (ME), will caucus with the Democrats, and vote with them on votes requiring a 60-vote threshold. The result in the House is a 234 to 201 Republican majority, a gain of eight seats for the Democrats.

In the Senate, the most important committee change may be in the Foreign Relations Committee. Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), who has been a strong supporter of Obama's foreign policy objectives, has openly lobbied to be appointed secretary of state when Secretary Hillary Clinton leaves. There has also been speculation that he may be appointed secretary of defense. In either case, his likely replacement as Foreign Relations Committee chair would be Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of this magazine's "Hall of Shame," who is a strong supporter of Israel and can be expected to push for even harsher sanctions against Iran. Other significant Democratic departures from the committee include the retirements of moderate Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA), a member of this magazine's "Hall of Fame," and Daniel Akaka (D-HI). On the Republican side, committee ranking Republican Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), a moderate and strong exponent of a bipartisan foreign policy, was defeated in the primary. His likely replacement will be Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), also a moderate and supporter of bipartisan foreign policy, but with less institutional clout than Lugar had.

Other important Senate changes include the retirements of Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who has worked to thwart several of Obama's foreign policy initiatives, and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), a strong Zionist who has pushed for more forceful U.S. actions against Iran and Syria.

Congress will remain staunchly pro-Israel, although perhaps a bit less stridently pro-Likud.

In the House, the most important changes will occur in the Foreign Affairs Committee. Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Israel's foremost proponent in the House, has reached her "term limit" and cannot be chairwoman again in the next Congress. However, she likely will seek and get the chair of the Middle East subcommittee, from which she undoubtedly will try to continue to promote Israel's interests over those of her own country. Her replacement likely will be Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), who has not been active on Middle East issues. Ranking committee Democrat Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) was defeated in a re-drawn California district pitting him against Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA). Sherman is Jewish and equally pro-Zionist, but perhaps less stridently so. Berman's replacement as ranking Democrat likely will be Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), who is Jewish and also a supporter of Israel.

Other significant election results included the defeats of several "know-nothing-party" members, including Reps. Robert Dold (R-IL), Joe Walsh (R-IL) and Allen West (R-FL), all of whom have pushed ill-considered pro-Israel and anti-Arab measures.

Special note should be made of the defeat of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), who unsuccessfully ran as a candidate for the Senate. Berkley has been a leading challenger to Ros-Lehtinen for the title of Israel's foremost champion in Congress.

All Five Arab Americans, Seven Fewer Jewish Americans Re-Elected

Of the five Arab Americans in the House, Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Nick Rahall (D-WV) handily won re-election. Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany (R) faces a run-offelection in December, because he failed to get 50 percent of the vote. …


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