New Senate Democrats get Foreign Relations Committee spots

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Science Speaks is continuing to look at changes in Washington’s global health leadership in the wake of November’s election. While Sen. Dick Durbin, who played a pivotal role in PEPFAR’s creation, leaves the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,  two new Democratic members, as announced Wednesday, will join the committee which directs foreign aid.

Chris Murphy  (D-Ct) The three-term Connecticut congressman will trade his seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee for a spot on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At 39 he is the youngest member of the senate, but has a history of involvement in global issues as well as health and research. During his first two terms in Congress he traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait and Pakistan, according to his Congressional bio. Previously a Connecticut state assemblyman and then state senator, he took a lead role in health issues in both positions, serving as chair of the state senate’s Public Health Committee. While former President George Bush vetoed Congress’s Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, Murphy authored his state’s Stem Cell Investment Act, a $100 million program that became the first in the nation to direct state funding to stem cell research. Murphy also will serve on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions committee which oversees legislation affecting the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health programs.

Tim Kaine (D-Va) – The former Virginia governor and former Democratic National Committee chairman took a year off to serve as a missionary in Honduras, according to his campaign biography. With a background as an attorney and fair housing advocate,Kaine had previously served as mayor of Richmond, and then lieutenant governor. As governor, he signed the nation’s first legislation requiring the HPV vaccine for girls, for school entry, with a parent “opt-out” clause. As governor he was one of 22 state leaders signing a letter to congress saying that investments supporting HIV care and prevention were lowering health care costs. As DNC chair he spoke supportively of the elimination of the U.S. HIV Entry Ban, and of  President Obama’s Global Health Initiative.

Science Speaks will continue to feature posts about new Congressional and Obama Administration leaders in global health in the coming weeks.

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