The Cable

Granger seeking chairmanship of State and foreign ops subcommittee

Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger will seek the chairmanship of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, according to her spokesman, ending rumors that she would forgo the post in favor of some other position.

Although no decisions have been made, until last night Granger was the ranking Republican on the panel and she is the clear frontrunner for the job. She would succeed current chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), who has served as chairwoman since 2006.

"Congresswoman Granger is interested in continuing on as chair of the state and foreign operations appropriations subcommittee," Matt Leffingwell, her press secretary, told The Cable Wednesday.

When power switches in Congress, a complicated game of musical chairs begins as senior members jockey for committee and subcommittee chairs. Just being the highest-ranking minority member on a panel doesn't mean one automatically takes over the chairmanship.

But if Granger does succeed Lowey, she will play a large role in writing the bills that appropriate money for State Department operations, USAID, foreign operations, foreign assistance, humanitarian assistance, and many other things. Those accounts all face unprecedented pressure next year as the GOP led Congress will be looking for spending cuts that don't have strong domestic constituencies.

Last month, we identified Granger as one of 10 Republicans who stand to be influential in the next Congress if the GOP won control of the House. Since then, we've received several e-mails from sources who had heard that Granger would forgo the subcommittee chairmanship to pursue leadership of another panel.

We've heard that Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), the third-ranking Republican on the panel, was eyeing the chairmanship with the expectation that Granger would step aside.  

(Mark Kirk (R-IL), the second-ranking Republican on the subcommittee, was elected Tuesday night to become the junior senator from Illinois, the seat once held by Barack Obama.)

So how would subcommittee chairwoman Granger handle the responsibility of writing the State and foreign ops appropriations bill? Here's what we reported in October:

Although [Granger] supported the bill put forth this year by current chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), she criticized the increases for the foreign-ops budget, saying, "We also face the continued concern in our own country about our economy and the devastating effects of skyrocketing deficits and debt." She's a strong supporter of a balanced budget amendment, which doesn't bode well for foreign-aid funding in this dismal fiscal environment.

Granger also serves on the defense subcommittee, placing her at the intersection of the debate over how to balance the national security budget and shift resources from defense to diplomacy and development. Here she seems to favor the Pentagon, saying in June, "I want to be sure that we aren't increasing foreign aid at the expense of our troops." Her lack of support of international organizations was criticized by the group Citizens for Global Solutions, which gave her an "F" in its 2007 to 2009 rating. Granger is also on board with efforts to eliminate aid to countries that are not performing on internal reform, as she explained when expressing opposition to funding of the Senegalese government through the State Department's Millennium Challenge Corporation. "We can't just give out money and say we will put up with whatever you are doing," she said.

The committee leadership assignments won't be doled out for at least two to three weeks, our Hill sources report. But if Granger's bid is successful, she'll be instantly influential. The fiscal 2011 State and Foreign Ops bill still has not been completed by Congress, despite that the fiscal year began Oct. 1.

The stop gap funding measure that has been funding these programs since then, known as a "continuing resolution," expires in December. The lame duck Democratic led Congress is unlikely to be able to pass full appropriations bills on its way out the door, so they will likely pass another short term continuing resolution. That would leave the final work on the actual bill to the incoming class led by the GOP next year.

Getty Images

The Cable

Senate loses its left-wing leader on foreign policy

Wisconsin's Russ Feingold was no ordinary Democratic senator. He staunchly staked out unabashedly liberal positions on all things foreign policy and national security related, right up until his defeat Tuesday night.

Feingold is, or was, technically the third-ranking Democratic senator on the Foreign Relations Committee, after Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Chris Dodd (D-CT). With Dodd retiring, Feingold stood to become chairman if Kerry were ever tapped for secretary of state. In fact, the rumor around town is that the prospect of an independent-minded Feingold leading the panel worried the White House so much that it had negative implications on their consideration of Kerry for Foggy Bottom.

Even as a mere rank-and-file committee member, Feingold was more active on foreign policy than most. He had as many as five full-time staffers on the issues, we're told, which is more than double the contingent for the average senator. Feingold had an extensive foreign-policy agenda, the leading item of which was his call for the administration to set a flexible timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

Feingold emerged after 9/11 as a champion of the liberal opposition to President George W. Bush's policies regarding the global war on terror. He was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001 when it first came up for a vote. He voted against giving Bush authorization to wage war in Iraq and pushed for withdrawal timelines throughout the war, often ignoring the wishes of Senate Democratic leadership. He introduced a resolution to censure Bush for violating Americans' civil rights through what he said was illegal domestic wiretapping.

Over the past two years, Feingold pleaded with the Obama administration to fulfill its promise to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He also used his perch as chair of the Africa affairs subcommittee to call for changes in U.S. policy toward Sudan. Whereas the House has a caucus of dozens of liberal antiwar lawmakers, in the Senate, Feingold led the few who shared his views and made sure those views entered the public debate.

On the economic front, Feingold resisted all free-trade agreements as well as Obama's efforts to relax export controls to countries like China and India. Those in the foreign-policy community who agree with those positions just lost their greatest advocate on Capitol Hill.

Notably, Feingold was also genuinely committed to bipartisanship. He famously voted for Attorney General John Ashcroft and voted against Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner only days after Obama's inauguration. He also worked with John McCain to craft campaign finance-reform legislation.

With Feingold gone, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic roster is more centrist, just as the Republican side of the bench is set to become more conservative. With Dodd also leaving the Senate this year, that's a lot of institutional knowledge to lose in one night.

And if Kerry ever does become secretary of state, Feingold is no longer in the running to replace him. Kerry's departure would leave the job of chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee up for grabs, with Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) as the early favorites.

Getty Images