New Congress brings new leader, faces to House foreign affairs committee

Republican Rep. Edward Royce of California is among those likely to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to head the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Photo by: House Committee on Foreign Affairs / CC BY-NC

The U.S. House of Representatives’ committee in charge of foreign affairs will have a new chairman come January 2013 — and it will most likely be Republican Rep. Edward Royce of California, a senior congressman who has expressed fairly conservative views on U.S. foreign assistance.

Royce expressed Nov. 7 his intention to seek chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is backed by current chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is forced by term limits to give up leadership of the committee.

“If selected as chairman, I will work against the Administration’s most harmful foreign policies, and exercise strong oversight over the State Department and other agencies,” Royce said.

Royce is no stranger to the foreign affairs committee, having served on it since joining Congress in 1993. He is currently chairman of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade subcommittee. He served as ranking member of the same panel and as chairman of the Africa and Asia subcommittees.

If elected chairman, he brings extensive experience in U.S. relations with Asian and African countries. He has, however, shown a tough stance against giving aid to China and Egypt, among other countries. He has also opposed sending food aid to North Korea and pressed the U.S. State Department to adopt stringent conditions on U.S. aid to Pakistan.

Royce, a firm supporter of limiting government spending, could also prove a tough opponent of administration plans to maintain or increase U.S. international affairs spending.

Royce did sponsor House Bill 6431, which eases conditions on U.S. contributions to international financial institutions helping Myanmar. This bill was signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama in October. He is also an active supporter of human rights and U.S. broadcasting efforts in Afghanistan, among other Asian countries.

Royce is not the only potential successor to Ros-Lehtinen. Another candidate is Republican Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, current chairman of the Africa, Global Health and Human Rights subcommittee. In this position, Smith has shown strong support for U.S. contributions to Africa’s development. He is, however, a critic of other aspects of Obama’s foreign policy, particularly toward China.

Between the two contenders, Washington insiders have suggested that Royce has better chances of getting selected. In addition, Smith has yet to express his intention to seek the position.

Whoever is selected would work with a different ranking member from their Democrat counterparts. Rep. Howard Berman of California, who served in the post under Ros-Lehtinen, lost in the Nov. 6 election. His opponent, fellow Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman, is among expected contenders for Berman’s post, along with Rep. Eliot Engle of New York.

The committee — and the House as a whole — also welcomes several new faces with strong international background and at least a dozen who have strongly endorsed effective foreign assistance. According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, these include Republican Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Trey Radel of Florida and Democratic Reps. Lois Frankel of Florida, Donald Payne Jr. of New Jersey and Mark Takano of California.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.