With New Chairman Tom Lantos, Committee Changes Name and Course
“A new sheriff has come to town, taking the reins with a purpose,” Lantos said as the 110th Congress got under way. “Americans have demanded change in the way our country conducts itself in the world. Count on Congress to see to it.”
In addition to launching a long-overdue reinvigoration of U.S. foreign policy oversight, Lantos said he will focus on reversing the severe loss to America’s prestige in recent years, improving international cooperation, and reinstating the United States’ role as the lodestar of democratic values and human rights.
A lifelong internationalist and an American by choice, Tom Lantos served for the last six years as the committee’s top-ranking minority member, working to preserve bipartisanship while calling the Administration to account for its foreign policy decisions. He was elected to head the committee by his Democratic peers in late 2006 and has just been confirmed for the job.
The House Rules Package (H. Res. 6) adopted last night reflects Chairman Lantos’ attitude toward the respected record and responsibilities of what had been dubbed the House International Relations Committee during 12 years of Republican rule, yet for all but four other years since 1822 had been known as the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Within its initial weeks, the new committee will hold hearings on the deteriorating situation in Iraq, the perils of current U.S. policy toward Iran, the looming potential loss of Afghanistan to a resurgent Taliban, and a proposed strategy to counteract the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
Lantos said he will also introduce an unconventional subject to the committee’s agenda: making our country less dependent on foreign energy resources.
“This makes sense from a global perspective, given the irrefutable science that has demonstrated the effects of our energy consumption on the environment,” the California Democrat said. “But it also is an important foreign policy matter, as our actions with respect to other countries can be distorted by our dependence upon oil from overseas. I want us to move in a meaningful way toward alternative fuels and to place more emphasis on conservation in this country, as we have done under previous presidential leadership. This is yet another way in which our committee under Democratic leadership will treat the past as a prologue."