The Cable

Rohrabacher put in charge of House foreign affairs investigations

As part of her drive to revamp the House Foreign Affairs Committee, incoming chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has named Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) as her point man on oversight and investigations related to the Obama administration.

"I will be establishing mechanisms for Americans to blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse in State Department and Foreign Aid operations by welcoming anonymous tips," Ros-Lehtinen said, in announcing that Rohrabacher would chair the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Tuesday.

Ros-Lehtinen touted Rohrabacher's past work with the subcommittee in investigating corruption in the U.N. Oil for Food program. "He also participated in investigations into foreign-owned banks under U.S. contract which violated U.S. sanctions on Iran, Cuba, and Libya," she said.

Ros-Lehtinen has pledged to put cutting the State Department and foreign aid budgets at the top of her agenda next year. Her work will be especially significant at this time, as Congress starts to write new authorization and appropriations bills for the 2011 fiscal year following the passage on Tuesday of a continuing resolution that will fund the government at current levels until March.

She also said she will establish a mechanism for the American people to be directly involved in the committee's hearings.

Here is the list of the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs committee and subcommittees on the Republican (majority) side in next year's Congress:

Rep. Elton Gallegly (CA), Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee  

Rep. Christopher H. Smith (NJ), Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights

Rep. Donald A. Manzullo (IL), Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific

Rep. Dan Burton (IN), Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia

Rep. Steve Chabot (OH), Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Rep. Edward R. Royce (CA), Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade

Rep. Connie Mack (FL), Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

"I am proud to lead this team which will protect and advance America's interests and values, and not apologize for doing so," Ros-Lehtinen said.

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The Cable

Jim DeMint and the war on Christmas vacation

South Carolina GOP Sen. Jim DeMint repeated today his claim that "millions of Americans" are "outraged" that Congress would dare work on major legislation, namely New START, this close to Christmas. He previously called it "sacrilegious."

"Don't tell me about Christmas. I understand Christmas," Vice President Joe Biden responded in a Dec. 16 interview. "There's 10 days between now and Christmas. I hope I don't get in the way of your Christmas shopping, but this is the nation's business. National security's at stake. Act."

Less than a week later, DeMint is back at it again. "It's clear with this treaty that [the administration is] trying to cram something down the throats of the American people under the cover of Christmas," DeMint said in a press conference on Tuesday. "They're not looking at politics right now, they're celebrating their holy Christmas holiday, and the fact that we're doing this under the cover of something to be outraged about."

Here at the Capitol building, there's some confusion about exactly how long before Dec. 25 Congress should stop working on major bills (so as not to offend the "millions" of outraged Christians DeMint is standing up for), and why only Christian holidays should be protected from major legislation.

In an exclusive interview with The Cable, DeMint explained what commentators have coined his drive to combat the "war on Christmas vacation." Here's the transcript:

JR: Senator DeMint, exactly how long before Christmas Day is the period during which the American people don't want Congress to work on major legislation, in your view?

JD: It has nothing to do with us not being willing to work. For the [continuing resolution] I'm willing to work right through New Year's. It's just, trying to do [New START] under the cover of people being distracted. We've worked with a lot of people on the outside and around the country who feel this is a bad way to do a bad treaty. People are distracted.

JR: How long are people distracted before Christmas? Is it the entire month of December, or what?

JD: The whole lame duck [session] to me is an illegitimate process and the intent to do whatever is the nation's business that has to be done, such as fund the government. But to pass major legislation during the lame duck is not the intent. People who are here, the voters have changed a lot of them. Doing it during Christmas is just one piece of it. The big issue is using the lame duck of unaccountable senators to ram through a major arms control treaty. That's the issue.

JR: Why invoke only the Christian holidays? Congress works on major legislation during Jewish holidays, Muslim holidays. You never said anything about that, right? Aren't Jews distracted during Hannukah?

JD: Sure, we normally take off for Jewish holidays. It's more of the distraction of the end of the year. I'm not trying to make it just an issue of Christmas. But it is obvious that Americans do not expect their unelected officials to come in and make major decisions when we're not supposed to be here and they're not paying attention.

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