Senate Foreign Relations Committee 101

Senate Foreign Relations Committee 101
What is the committee?
Established in 1816, it is one of the ten original committees of the U.S Senate. Six Presidents have served on this prestigious committee, those being Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Harrison, Warren Harding and John Kennedy. Its main goal is to influence the United States Foreign Policy by supporting and opposing various legislature brought forth by the President and the Secretary of State. They have been instrumental in treaty development and have considered, debated, and reported many important treaties throughout history. They vote to either accept treaties or reject them depending on whether they consider it to be in the nation’s best interest. This included rejecting the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and in 1920. The committee was also involved in the purchase of Alaska and the creation of the United Nations.

How many people are members?
The main committee consists of one Chairman and a Ranking Member. The Chairman and the Ranking Member also serve as ex officio members of all the subcommittees of which they are not members. Ex officio meaning that, because of their standing, they are automatically on all subcommittees of which they are not a member. There are also 9 majority members and 7 minority members. To become a part of the committee a person must be nominated and then approved for membership.

What are the subcommittees?
There are 7 other subcommittees under the Foreign Relations Committee:

  • Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Global Narcotics Affairs
  • Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection
  • Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
  • Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Subcommittee on European Affairs
  • Subcommittee on African Affairs
  • Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues

How do the meetings work?
The Committee holds hearings on legislation, nominations, treaties, general oversight, and current international situations. They are held at the call of the chairman and are initiated by the chairman and the standing minority member. All members are allowed to suggest that meetings be held on various topics and that bills and resolutions be placed on the agenda for a hearing. Oral presentations are given by various members of the committee and the subcommittees in defense of their stance on the legislation and they may call witnesses to support their claims.

How does the Senate Foreign Relations Committee help our country?
This committee is at the forefront of how our country deals with foreign aid. Because they debate and decide on various legislatures dealing with other countries, many of these issues are directly related to global poverty. For instance, an act was submitted in 2011 by Senator John Kerry called the Middle East and North Africa Transition and Development Act. This act states that it is United States policy to “(1) support a democratic transition in the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt and Tunisia; and (2) increase economic prosperity in that region through financial investment and technical assistance and by utilizing the resources of appropriate multilateral development banks.” What we do and how we help ends up being directly related to how the Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolves hearings and meetings.

– Chelsea Evans

Sources: United States Committee on Foreign Relations, Library of Congress
Photo: Foreign Policy