Ros-Lehtinen Flexes Foreign Policy Muscle

December 13, 2010 By Melissa Silverman

The 111th Congress is expected to be in its final week of session before adjourning this Friday.  The year-long Continuing Resolution (CR) passed by the House last week now moves to the Senate.  The CR will compete with an omnibus package prepared by Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI).  The Senate is likely to vote on an omnibus package later this week, and if it fails, the Senate will take up the CR.  Some Senate Republicans have expressed opposition to both proposals, favoring instead a short-term CR into the spring.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

New foreign affairs player arrives on the scene (Jennifer Rubin  – Washington Post)

Over the last week, I’ve expressed skepticism about the ability of Senate and House Republicans to impact the administration’s foreign policy. As we saw during the Bush administration, even a president whose popularity is skidding enjoys wide latitude in the conduct of foreign policy. And at a time when domestic issues are paramount, there are few Republicans willing to devote time and energy to foreign policy. But there is a big exception: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). Ros-Lehtinen was named chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week. To say that critics of the Obama foreign policy are thrilled to have her on the scene would be an understatement. If you talk to Cuba democracy advocates, friends of Israel, supporters of Georgia against Russian aggression, and human rights activists, they will uniformly express praise for Ros-Lehtinen.

More surgery for diplomat Richard Holbrooke (Laura Rozen – Politico)

Veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke remained in critical condition Sunday in a Washington hospital after undergoing an additional procedure to help him recover from a torn aorta suffered Friday .

Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, underwent more than 20 hours of surgery that ended Saturday after collapsing Friday  in a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department, the State Department said. Having stabilized, he then underwent an additional procedure Sunday to improve circulation in his legs, associates told POLITICO, saying the procedure seemed to go reasonably well.

Smart Power

Development and Diplomacy is Smart Power (Rick Cohen – Nonprofit Quarterly)

On paper (or Powerpoint), the draft QDDR pledges to revitalize USAID as the “World’s Premier Development Agency”, a daunting task after a 38 percent cut in its workforce between 1990 and 2007. Rebuilding USAID means a commitment to development aid in which many domestic NGOs play important design and delivery roles. The overall plan appears to be the next phase of development of Secretary Clinton’s concept of “smart power,” which she described at her nomination hearings as making “diplomacy . . . the vanguard of foreign policy.” As its core theme, the QDDR promotes “civilian power,” with “diplomats and development experts as the first face of American power.” In contrast to this nation’s too long reliance on military power, the QDDR says that “diplomacy and development must be mutually reinforcing” for civilian power to be effective.

Would-be Haitian contractors miss out on aid (Martha Mendoza – Bloomberg)

In a Port-au-Prince warehouse loaded with tarps, plywood, corrugated roofing, nails and other building supplies, company owner Patrick Brun says he had hoped to get contracts from the billions of dollars in international aid promised to Haiti. His 40-year-old company, Chabuma S.A., sells cement blocks, doors, sand bags and other materials for international companies. But what he wants is a more significant role in his country’s recovery, which is why he says he keeps bidding — without success — for U.S. government contracts. “You can imagine that if we can’t win the contracts ourselves, we become totally dependent on foreign companies and nonprofits, and there is not much hope in that,” he said. Out of every $100 of U.S. contracts now paid out to rebuild Haiti, Haitian firms have successfully won $1.60, The Associated Press has found in a review of contracts since the earthquake on Jan. 12. And the largest initial U.S. contractors hired fewer Haitians than planned.

Politics/Foreign Policy

QDDR coming out next week, despite rollout SNAFU (Josh Rogin – Foreign Policy)

We know we’ve said this before, but the State Department promises that it is really, truly, honestly preparing to roll out its first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review next week, probably on Dec. 15. When we last spoke to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, in October, he said the release would come that month. The release date was then pushed back until Nov. 15, then Dec. 1, then Dec. 15. The final interagency approval is still pending, but the State Department is committed to getting it done and releasing the document next week, multiple State Department sources confirmed to The Cable today. Some in the development community were confused this week after invitations for a Dec. 16 QDDR rollout event were sent out on the afternoon of Dec. 9, and then subsequently the event was put on hold the morning of Dec. 10. The Dec. 16 event was to feature speeches by State Department Policy Planning chief Anne-Marie Slaughter (who is leaving Washington soon to return to Princeton University) and USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg (yes, both State and USAID have a deputy named Steinberg).

W.H. launches charm offensive with new GOP chairs (John Bresnahan & Jake Sherman – Politico)

Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who will take over from Democrat Howard Berman at the Foreign Affairs Committee, also got a phone call from Obama following the GOP victory on Election Day and later attended a select meeting with Clinton and other lawmakers. Ros-Lehtinen has also been contacted by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, whose portfolio includes some international finance matters. Ros-Lehtinen, who said she “looked forward to working with” Clinton and other administration officials on foreign-policy issues, was even chatted up by Obama during the White House Christmas party last week, GOP aides added.

Joe Lieberman, foreign policy maven (Jennifer Rubin  – Washington Post)

On Friday afternoon I spoke with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) about the array of foreign policy issues that popped up during the week. Through quiet pressure and a series of foreign policy speeches, Lieberman has persistently pressed the Obama administration on a range of issues, but never with fiery or personal criticism of the president. To the extent that the administration is now wising up on several fronts, Lieberman can claim a measure of the credit. This is especially evident on Iran. Why did he and other senators send a letter to the president urging that sanctions not be relaxed and that the administration not allow Iran to continue limited enrichment of nuclear material? Lieberman explained that one reason for the letter was to help forge a “bipartisan stance” on Iran.