Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks as prepared for delivery at today’s full committee markup of H.R. 1897, H. Res. 131, H. Res. 273, and H. Res. 222.
The statement follows:
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today’s markup on these four bipartisan measures. I’ll just make some brief comments about each one of them.
H.R. 1897, introduced by our colleague Chris Smith, addresses the troubling human rights situation in Vietnam. Despite the country’s increased economic freedom, religious and political freedoms for Vietnamese citizens remain severely limited. The bilateral relationship between Washington and Hanoi has improved since diplomatic relations were established over 15 years ago, but the lack of greater progress in protecting basic rights and civil liberties in Vietnam remains a barrier to closer cooperation in the future.
H. Res. 131, introduced by my good friend Karen Bass, draws critical attention to the ongoing situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Violence continues to plague this region, with thousands of people displaced, dying of disease, suffering from rampant sexual abuse, and living with constant uncertainty about their futures.
This resolution calls for a comprehensive approach to the crisis that addresses the root causes of the conflict, and includes the active participation of all stakeholders, including the governments of countries in the Great Lakes region, the U.N and the U.S.
Both the UN and the State Department have appointed Special Envoys for the region, and the UN recently deployed additional peacekeepers with a mandate to be more aggressive in responding to armed rebel movements. I hope that some of these actions will change the dynamic in eastern Congo and allow the people of the region to finally live in peace.
Mr. Chairman, I’d like to thank you for your leadership in introducing H.Res. 273, which calls for the nomination of a permanent Inspector General for the State Department.
I’ve been happy to work with you on this issue over the last several months, and to be an original cosponsor of this resolution. I know we share the view that having a permanent IG in place will help ensure independent and robust oversight at the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
I have now been informed that Secretary Kerry and President Obama identified a candidate for the State IG position back in April. The vetting process for that candidate is nearly complete, and the Secretary expects the nomination to be finalized and made public in the very near future. I know we all look forward to that announcement.
Finally, H. Res. 222, introduced by my good friend Greg Meeks, highlights the long-term strategic relationship between the United States and Jordan, which has been one of the few pillars of stability and peace in the Middle East.
Regional events such as transition in Egypt, and war in Syria, have put unprecedented stress on the Jordanian economy and society. Jordan is currently overflowing with refugees and its already-limited resources are strained.
At this moment in time, Jordan needs support from the U.S. more than ever. This important resolution commends the people and Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for their continued friendship with the U.S. and commitment to peace, security, and stability. It also praises the Government of Jordan for its response to the Syrian humanitarian crisis by hosting and caring for refugees fleeing violence instigated by the Assad regime. And finally, the resolution expresses a firm commitment to support the Government of Jordan as it faces regional challenges and works toward a more peaceful and stable Middle East.
Mr. Chairman, I’d like to thank you again for holding this markup, and I look forward to supporting the package of measures.