Saturday, November 22, 2008

John Kerry To Chair
Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Bryan Bender (Boston Globe)

Senator John Kerry will be named chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, congressional officials said, giving him enormous influence over the foreign policies of President-elect Barack Obama.

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. He will take over for Vice President-elect Joseph Biden Jr., the officials said.

Aides to Kerry said he was 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.

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 the 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 Carter, a professor at Texas Christian University and co-author of the upcoming book "Choosing to Lead: Understanding Congressional Foreign Policy Entrepreneurs."

Along with the Judiciary and Finance committees, the Foreign Relations Committee was among the first three Senate panels established, in 1816. It is responsible for vetting international treaties before ratification by the full Senate, and for conducting the confirmation hearings for presidential nominees for the State Department, including all foreign ambassadors.

The committee also oversees the State Department budget and funds foreign aid programs, helps set arms control policy and authorizes military training for allied nations.