Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Changes in Congress May Affect U.S. Middle East Policy

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Changes in Congress May Affect U.S. Middle East Policy

Article excerpt

Changes in Congress May Affect U.S. Middle East Policy

The November elections are still five months away, but it is already clear that the 103rd Congress that convenes in Washington next January will be radically different from the current Congress. Members of Congress are retiring in near-record numbers, the voters are expressing surprising support for a virtual political unknown for president, and women across the country are running and winning primary battles and are poised to enter Congress in force in the fall.

These looming changes are almost certain to have a major impact on U.S. policy toward the Middle East, particularly since some of the most drastic changes will occur on the House Foreign Affairs and Appropriations committees, which both play a key role in setting U.S. regional policy. Both Reps. Dante Fascell (D-FL), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and William Broomfield (R-MI), the ranking minority member, have announced their intention to step down at the end of the year.

Foreign Affairs and Appropriations

Fascell, 75, has served in the House for 38 years, chairing the Foreign Affairs panel since 1984. A major supporter of aid to Israel, Fascell in all likelihood will be succeeded by Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN). Hamilton, the ranking member of the committee, currently serves as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East. Although he votes with AIPAC, pro-Israel lobbyists are unhappy with his habit of exposing members of Congress to testimony on both sides of Israel-related questions through committee hearings. This could be especially damaging for freshmen members of Congress who, unencumbered with a past record of accepting donations from pro-Israel PACs, might be tempted to vote in line with wishes of their own constituents instead of the Israel lobby on Middle East questions.

Fascell's departure is by no means the only change that will affect the committee next year. By mid-June, 10 of the panel's 45 members had announced their intention to retire, had given up their House seats to seek other offices, or had been defeated in primary elections. One of the best known departees is Rep. Mel Levine (D-CA), who relinquished his House seat for an unsuccessful Democratic senatorial primary race (see "California Chronicle," page 66), and who has been one of the panel's most vocal supporters of Israel. …

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