Washington, DC – The House Democratic Caucus today voted to appoint Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Berman made the following statement:

“I deeply appreciate the confidence that my colleagues have shown in me today. While I can never replicate the unique historical perspective and natural eloquence that Chairman Tom Lantos brought to this position, I'll work very hard as chairman to repair the damage done to America’s standing in the world over the past seven years by this Administration. My highest priority will be to reassert the role of Congress in developing a foreign policy that reflects our national interests and is true to our values.

"I believe it is extremely important for the Foreign Affairs Committee to increase its legislative activity. I intend, in the next Congress, to work with the Senate to resume the practice of passing foreign aid and State Department authorizations bills, both of which are essential for strengthening the tools of effective diplomacy. I also expect to begin laying the groundwork for a major overhaul of U.S. assistance to other countries. I want to explore how we can make foreign aid more effective, ensure that our money isn't wasted or diverted, and make sure we get the best bang for our buck.

"Perhaps the most serious threat facing the world today is the nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Our most immediate challenge is to dissuade Iran -- the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism -- from developing nuclear weapons, and to complete the job of denuclearizing North Korea, consistent with the Six-Party Talks. But the committee will also work to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver them. This strategy will include steps the United States should take -- as outlined by Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, Bill Perry and George Shultz -- to devalue the currency of nuclear weapons."

Tomorrow the Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing to review U.S. policy on the Balkans now that Kosovo is independent and on the eve of NATO enlargement. In early April the committee will hear from General David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to review the situation in Iraq.

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