114th Congress and Global Health: Senate Foreign Relations Committee, new subcommittees bring diverse views, background to global health leadership roles

By on .

Capitol1118

The November 2014 election saw Republicans gain the majority in the Senate, putting both houses of Congress under GOP control for the first time since 2006, and giving the party control over hearings and legislative action with leadership of all committees and subcommittees. As the new Senate majority and continuing House majority set the legislative agenda for the coming session, Science Speaks 114th Congress series this week will look at changes to committees pivotal to global health concerns, including new leaders, new faces, and new subcommittees, with newly defined jurisdictions. You can also check out the IDSA Center for Global Health Policy listing of relevant House and Senate committee and subcommittee membership at the link below.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee leaders Sen. Robert Corker (R- Tenn.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D – NJ) will switch seats on the committee this session, with Corker assuming chairmanship, and Menendez as ranking member. The two leaders collaborated during the first session of the 113th Congress to renew authorizations for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, with the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013.

Sen. Corker assumed the chairmanship with a restructuring of subcommittees, including those with jurisdiction over global health program funding and policy. The reorganization distributes oversight of PEPFAR funding, Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria allocations, and global health policy across three separate subcommittees. Descriptions of those new subcommittees and their leadership follow, with introductions to new leaders, and updates on leaders we’ve covered before, along with links to their profiles in our 113th Congress series.

Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development

According to the Rules of the Committee, this subcommittee’s responsibilities include oversight of the budget and operations of the State Department, under which PEPFAR operates, and USAID.

My Approved PortraitsSen. David Perdue (R – Ga) is the new subcommittee’s new Chairman. Replacing retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss this session, the junior senator brings a business background to his new position according to his campaign biography, with stints at Sara Lee, Haggar Clothing, and and as CEO of Reebok, Pillowtex Corp., a North Carolina-based textile company that shut down four months after Perdue left leading to the largest single job loss in the state’s history, and Dollar General. Perdue then worked as a consultant for Gujarat Heavy Chemicals, Ltd., an Indian chemical textile conglomerate before joining a cousin and two partners to launch an Atlanta-based global trading firm. A newcomer to politics and public policy, Perdue comes to his position with little in his background or campaign materials to suggest what his global health priorities might be. His domestic stances limiting birth control access, and against abortion rights, however, were the topics of ads Planned Parenthood’s regional political and advocacy arm launched against his candidacy. Sen. Perdue also sits on the Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic, Energy, and Environmental Policy,

TimKaineSen Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ranking Member on the subcommittee, took his seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he joined the 113th Congress in 2013. During last two years, he has expressed concern, including during a confirmation hearing for U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Birx, about the impacts of anti-homosexuality laws passed in Uganda and Nigeria, and co-sponsored the Global Development Lab Act, a bill to authorize an expansion of public private partnerships to deliver medical solutions in countries with limited health resources.

Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic, Energy, and Environmental Policy

According to the Rules of the Committee, this subcommittee’s oversight includes “U.S multilateral international development policy, multilateral foreign assistance, and all U.S. mandatory and voluntary contributions to international organizations, “and relationship with such entities,” which includes the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and UNAIDS.

220px-John_Barrasso_official_portrait_112th_CongressSen. John Barrasso (R – Wyo.) is the new subcommittee’s new Chairman. An orthopedic surgeon and former president of the Wyoming Medical Society, he was named “Wyoming Physician of the Year,” according to his Senate web site. He served on the Wyoming Senate from 2002, until his appointment to the United States Senate in June 2007 on the death of Sen. Craig Thomas, whose seat he then won in a special 2008 election. Barrasso voted against the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008, which reauthorized PEPFAR and commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria. Re-elected to a full term in 2012, Barrasso criticized and voted against President Obama’s pick for Surgeon General of physician, Harvard Medical School instructor and Doctors For America co-founder Vivek Murthy, although Murthy’s nomination was supported by more than 100 public health and medical professional organizations.

TomUdallSen. Tom Udall is the new subcommittee’s new Ranking Member. First elected to the Senate in 2009, Udall previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives and as New Mexico’s Attorney General. While serving as a Congressional Representative he voted in favor of reauthorizing Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 and is one of 40 U.S. legislators to sign a bipartisan, bicameral letter in 2013 urging President Obama to raise targets for global AIDS treatment enrollment to 12 million by 2016.

Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy

According to the Rules of the Committee this subcommittee’s oversight includes “all matters concerning U.S. relations with countries in Africa” . . . including “matters relating to” U.S. foreign assistance programs, which (with the two subcommittees above charged with funding oversight), we’re told is limited to policies governing PEPFAR and other global health responses. At a time when PEPFAR is responding to punitive laws and discriminatory policies against gay and transgender individuals that interfere with access to HIV prevention and treatment services, the leadership of this subcommittee have shown support for human rights issues.

FlakeSen. Jeff Flake (R – AZ) is the Chairman of this committee. After taking his seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2013, he addressed the impact of sequestration by saying “the only thing worse than the sequester is no sequester.” In an speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in September Flake said his views on foreign policy hadn’t changed much. He has voiced support on domestic human rights issues in the last two years, urging Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill that would allow businesses to cite religious convictions as a reason to refuse service to selected individuals (including gay individuals, although the breadth of the legislation was noted also to have the potential to allow businesses to refuse service on the basis of gender and ethnicity as well). He also voted for the Employment nondiscrimination act.

dropped in flagsSen. Edward J. Markey (D- Mass.), who was elected in 2013 to serve out the remainder of now Secretary of State John Kerry’s term, is Ranking Member of this committee. Markey served 37 years in the U.S. House of Representatives where he included medical research among the priorities listed on his web site. Last year he introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act, which infectious disease clinician and researcher Dr. Kenneth Mayer wrote would help the fight against HIV globally, and this year Markey re-introduced the bill. With Sen. Kaine at a confirmation hearing for U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Birx last spring, Markey raised concerns over the impacts of Uganda and Nigeria’s anti-gay legislation, saying the laws would interfere with global AIDS responses.

 See the IDSA Center for Global Health Policy Guide to the 114th Congress here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *