History was made on Capitol Hill when Congressman Gregory Meeks was elected chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, becoming the first African-American to lead the powerful panel.
Meeks defeated Congressman Joaquin Castro by a nearly 2-1 margin.
“I am incredibly honored to be elected chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a committee that I have served on throughout my tenure of service in Congress,” Meeks said. “There is extraordinary talent across the committee and Democratic caucus, and I look forward to working closely with members as we look ahead to a new era of U.S. global affairs. The committee under the next Congress will preside over a historic shift in U.S. foreign policy, and there will be no shortage of work ahead of us. Not only will we need to re-engage with a world that has felt the marked absence of U.S. global leadership, but we must also rethink traditional approaches to foreign policy.”
Meeks won the gavel in a Democratic caucus-wide vote and will carry the gavel beginning in January. President-elect Joseph Biden has signaled a reverse-of-course away from the Trump Administration’s “America First” approach to foreign policy.
“This will not be a return to normal, but a leap toward a new way of doing business,” Meeks said. “We will broaden our scope and outreach to parts of the world we have historically overlooked. We will return as partners to our European allies, but we will need to build new multilateral relationships in the Western Hemisphere and Africa. We can only address the systemic challenges posed by Moscow and Beijing with the help of our like-minded friends.”
“We will also need to establish new coalitions to address the existential crisis of climate change and emerging threats,” Meeks added.
“None of that work, however, can be completed without a considerable rebuilding of our Department of State. Diplomacy must be moved front and center as the primary tool for conducting U.S. foreign policy, no longer second to military action,” Meeks said. “The Foreign Relations Committee must take the leading role in how we rebuild the State Department. We will broaden the conversation, hearing testimony from organizations and non-traditional diplomats. We will press for greater diversity so our diplomatic corps looks more like the America it represents abroad, strengthening the initiatives that serve as a pipeline for diverse communities.”
In essence, Meeks’ mission will be to “build in back better,” to borrow from Biden’s campaign promises.
“We can no longer be America first, but America forward,” Weeks said. “Our challenges before us are global in scale, and it will require global cooperation, spearheaded by American leadership. I am eager to begin work with my colleagues on the committee, and look forward to working with the new Biden-Harris administration on the tasks ahead of us.”
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was re-elected chairwoman of the powerful Committee on Oversight and Reform for the 117th Congress.
“As the primary investigatory committee in the House, we have conducted robust oversight of the Trump administration, including exposing its repeated attempts to undermine the accuracy of the 2020 Census and politicize the U.S. Postal Service,” Maloney said. “We also revealed evidence that pharmaceutical companies are targeting the United States for higher prescription drug prices because the federal government is not allowed to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower costs.”
Maloney added she and her colleagues would work to crush the coronavirus crisis and “build upon the work we have done so far to ensure that all Americans receive their mail in a timely manner, are counted in a complete and accurate 2020 Census, and can afford life-saving medications.”