musical chairs

Senate Foreign Relations Committee announces subcommittee assignments

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) will head the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism subcommittee while Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will take the mantle of the Europe and Regional Security Cooperation subcommittee

Mark C. Olsen

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez speaks at a ceremony at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Feb. 4, 2019.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced its subcommittee leadership Thursday afternoon. Here’s who will be taking the gavels:

Full committee:

Chair: Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the longtime ranking member, has expressed skepticism over the Biden administration’s plans for reentering the Iran nuclear deal. Menendez opposed the deal in 2015, but called former President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the agreement in 2018 “a grave mistake.”

Ranking member: Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) was previously the committee’s chair.

Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism:

Chair: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) came under fire last year for leading a group of Democratic senators in a meeting with Iran’s foreign minister. He’s also called for easing sanctions on humanitarian aid. Murphy was a leading opponent of Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank, co-authoring a letter in May 2020 opposing the move.

Ranking member: Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) supported a 2020 bill limiting Trump’s powers to declare war against Iran. He was also an original sponsor of a resolution supporting the Abraham Accords.

Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues:

Chair: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) was another organizer of efforts by Senate Democrats to oppose Israeli annexation. He is a frequent voice in favor of limiting presidential war powers.

Ranking member: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been outspoken about the communist regimes in Cuba, from where his family immigrated, and Venezuela.

Europe and Regional Security Cooperation:

Chair: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has recently spotlighted concerns about the mysterious brain injuries suffered by U.S. diplomats in Cuba, China and other countries.

Ranking member: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) spoke out last year about his concerns with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including his threats to limit U.S. access to a military base in Turkey, claiming the U.S. was planning to move troops out of the country — which the Pentagon denied.

East Asia, The Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy:

Chair: Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is one of the more progressive members of the Senate Democratic caucus, however he has also co-sponsored two pieces of legislation opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a position which earned him the ire of some Massachusetts progressives. 

Ranking member: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said in remarks during his 2012 presidential campaign that “the Palestinians have no interest… in establishing peace” — making peace “almost unthinkable.”

Africa and Global Health Policy:

Chair: Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) was another leader of the Senate opposition to Israeli annexation.

Ranking member: Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) recently entered his second term in the Senate, and has generally fallen in line with mainstream GOP policies on Israel and other Middle East issues.

State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development:

Chair: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) is a longtime ally of Israel in Congress and is currently circulating a letter denouncing the International Criminal Court’s decision to allow an investigation of Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank.

Ranking member: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), who is in his first term in Congress, was U.S. ambassador to Japan under President Donald Trump.

Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic, Energy, and Environmental Policy:

Chair: Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is a close ally of President Joe Biden, and was, at one point, seen as a possible secretary of state pick.

Ranking member: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is collaborating with Cardin on the ICC letter, and is also the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee.