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The 113th congress will be sworn in on January 3, and – thanks to term limit rules, and a number of election losses and retirements – several important committees will see major shake-ups in leadership.  In the Senate, most committees will have new ranking members, and in the House seven panels, including Ap­propriations and Foreign Affairs, will get new chairmen.

Why does this matter for international development?  These changes will put new policy players atop committees that oversee aspects of how the US engages with the developing world, including US foreign assistance, global health, and the engagement with the international financial institutions (IFIs).  Committee chairs generally have the ear of majority leaders in both parties and help set the tone for policy debates on the Hill, so these shakeups have implications for international development policies for the next two years (and beyond). Drawing from many good analyses of the 113th congress – see USGLC, Foreign Policy, Bloomberg News/Government, and CQ [pay walled]– and with an eye towards development priorities, here are the four key committee shakeups I’ll be watching:

Senate Foreign Relations Committee –  With Democrats retaining control of the Senate, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) will continue as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) – that is, unless President Obama taps him for the Secretary of State and Kerry resigns his Senate seat.  Under this scenario, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) will most likely take up leadership of the SFRC.  Menendez has long supported US foreign assistance as part of a global development agenda, and championed policies and increased funding to address global climate change (after all, helping poor countries is about more than aid).

Still, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) will have at least one new leader in the 113th Congress.  The top GOP spot on the committee is open following Senator Lugar’s defeat in his primary, and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) is poised to step in.  Corker has been a supporter of the International Affairs Budget – most recently opposing a measure that would have cut US foreign assistance to Pakistan, Egypt, and Libya – and I hope he will display the same leadership and ability to work across the aisle that Lugar demonstrated during his tenure on the committee.

House Foreign Affairs Committee – The House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) will have a new Chairman and Ranking member in January.  Current Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), will step down in 2013 due to term-limits, leaving Representatives Chris Smith and Ed Royce as the most likely successors (with Royce as the stronger contender of the two having won Ros-Lehtinen’s endorsement and given that Representative Smith has yet to officially throw his hat in the ring).  While Rep. Royce’s record on development policies are mixed, he is a proponent of trade as a tool to fight extreme poverty and has long led bipartisan efforts around the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The top Democrat spot is also open after Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) – one of the ‘strongest and most outspoken champions and leaders for the International Affairs Budget’, as pointed out by USGLC – was defeated by fellow Committee-member Representative Brad Sherman.   While Sherman has seniority on the Committee and has expressed interest in taking on the leadership position, Representative Engel (D-NY) is favored to take this spot.  Engel is currently the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere – where he has pushed for foreign assistance and engagement in the region.  He has also been a supporter of global health – with particularly strong leadership around the 2008 reauthorization of PEPFAR.

House Appropriations Committee – Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY) will remain Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, but the retirement of current ranking member Norm Dicks (D-WA) opens up the top Democrat spot on the committee.  Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) holds seniority on the committee, but is being challenged by Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) who is thought to have an edge.  As current chair of the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, Lowey has consistently elevated development alongside diplomacy and defense in foreign policy.  Should Lowey succeed Dicks as the top Democrat on the Committee, there is a chance should would remain the ranking member on State, Foreign Operations (which wouldn’t be without precedence – Rep. Dicks remained chair of the Defense Subcommittee during his tenure as Ranking Member of the full committee).  Otherwise, it’s unclear who would lead State and Foreign Ops alongside returning Rep. Kay Granger – by seniority, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) is next in line but would likely be jumped by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

House Committee on Financial Services–  The House Committee on Financial Services Committee will get a new Chairman and Ranking Member in 2013.  Current chair Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) is term limited, leaving Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the current vice chair, the most likely successor.   The retirement of current Ranking Member Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) marks the loss of a staunch supporter of debt relief and IFI reforms, and opens the top democrat spot on the committee to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) who is expected to move up.  Leadership of the Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade - which has jurisdiction over the IFI’s – is expected to stay the same; still, half of the members in the majority lost their reelection bid or retired [Rep. Robert Dold (D-IL), Ron Paul (R-TX).  Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-IL), and Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH)], which will make for a different landscape on the Subcommittee in 2013. 

Decisions about committee leadership will take place in the coming months, and I’ll be watching to see how things shake out.  But regardless who takes the reigns in January, here are two wishes for the new leadership of these important committees.  First, continue to elevate development beyond foreign aid and use all the policy tools that the United States has at its disposal including: trade as a development policy, work on adaptation assistance to help developing countries combat the effects of climate change, maximize the development benefits of bringing the private sector to Africa, and think across the board about the relevance of development in making Americans more prosperous.  And second, as a nod to Senator Lugar and Representative Berman – two of the most effective supporters of international development during their tenure in Congress – build consensus and seek (or maintain) a bipartisan agenda for key development priorities.  These might seem like lofty wishes given the tremendous challenges facing the new Congress, but hey - maybe this cycle we’ll get lucky.