- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

Seeking a new name to go with a new attitude, congressional Democrats announced yesterday the House International Relations Committee would be reverting to its old, pre-Republican majority moniker: the “House Committee on Foreign Affairs.”

“A new sheriff has come to town, taking the reins with a purpose,” incoming committee Chairman Tom Lantos, California Democrat, said. “Americans have demanded change in the way our country conducts itself in the world.”

The new Republican House majority in 1994, under Speaker New Gingrich, re-dubbed the panel the International Relations Committee in part to distinguish it from its counterpart in the other wing of the Capitol, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Mr. Lantos noted that the House panel had been known as the Committee on Foreign Affairs almost without interruption since 1822.

By whatever name, the House and Senate foreign affairs committees have both promised aggressive early oversight of the Bush administration’s diplomacy, something they say was not done under Republican control.

Mr. Lantos will chair a hearing Thursday on Iraq with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a day after President Bush is slated to outline his revised strategy on the war. The committee will hold a second hearing the same day on U.S. policy toward Iran.

Mr. Lantos said the committee also planned public sessions on the North Korean nuclear standoff and the “looming potential loss of Afghanistan” to the resurgent fundamentalist Taliban movement.

New Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, also has announced plans for a string of oversight hearings on Iraq over the next month. The Senate committee will hold a closed session with intelligence officials on Iraq on Tuesday and will hear from a group of private Iraq scholars on Wednesday.

Mr. Biden has been an early and vocal critic of an increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, which is expected to be a centerpiece of Mr. Bush’s new strategy.

“We’ve tried the military surge option before and it failed,” Mr. Biden said last month.

“If the president proposes escalation in Iraq, I will oppose him and so will many of my colleagues in Congress,” he added.

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