Thursday, Nov 20, 2008
More than three decades after he first appeared before the panel as a 27-year-old Vietnam veteran-turned-antiwar protester, Senator John F. Kerry will be named chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, giving him enormous influence over President-elect Barack Obama’s foreign policy, according to congressional officials.
Kerry, who was elected to a fifth term from Massachusetts earlier this month, will be handed the gavel when the new Congress convenes in January, replacing Vice President-elect Joe Biden, the officials said.
Aides to Kerry said he is already laying out a broad agenda for the committee, beginning with new legislation to strengthen the United States’ hand against terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan; provide oversight of efforts to end the war in Iraq; and seize what he sees as a new opportunity to curtail the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
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Kerry, 64, is still considered by some political observers to be a possible pick for Obama’s secretary of state, but Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, each of whom met separately with Obama at his Chicago transition office last week, are considered far more likely selections for the position of top diplomat.
Still, from his new perch on the Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry would play an “enormous gatekeeping role,” said Ralph G. Carter, a professor at Texas Christian University and coauthor of the upcoming book, “Choosing to Lead: Understanding Congressional Foreign Policy Entrepreneurs.”
“The role of Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair is enormously influential,” Carter said. “It gives the person who holds it an incredible position to shape policy.”
Along with the Judiciary and Finance committees, the Foreign Relations Committee was among the first three Senate panels established, in 1816.
This article was posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 11:58 am