Emily Cadei

Dempsey's Reconfirmation Will Shine Spotlight on Foreign Policy

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the military’s top officer, is up for confirmation for another two-year term at an awkward time for the Obama administration, as it wrestles with its response to unrest abroad and steep cuts to defense spending at home.

Dempsey, a largely noncontroversial figure, will almost certainly be rewarded with another two years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But his confirmation hearing this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee will likely be a bumpy ride with senators grilling the four-star Army officer on his track record, as well as the administration’s plans and priorities.

Covert Plan to Arm Syrian Rebels Faces Skeptical Intelligence Panel

The covert nature of President Barack Obama’s plan to arm Syria’s rebels has left Congress’ intelligence committees with what amounts to sole jurisdiction over the latest phase of U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war.

But unlike the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which voted on a bipartisan basis to arm the opposition in May, and the Armed Services Committee, whose chairman wants the administration to consider air strikes in Syria, Senate Intelligence Committee members are not at all comfortable with plans to send arms to opposition fighters.

Egypt Aid Faces Growing Opposition on Capitol Hill

An Egyptian court’s conviction of more than 40 civil society workers Tuesday prompted sharp criticism from Capitol Hill, even from lawmakers who have urged patience with Cairo in the past.

With Congress in the midst of drafting its fiscal 2014 spending bills, the latest news from the troubled country will make it that much tougher for the Obama administration to maintain funding levels for Egyptian aid this year, as requested in its budget.

Lawmakers Nix Obama's Food Aid Overhaul, but Discuss Compromise

A White House-proposed overhaul of the United States’ $1.4 billion food aid program is not going to happen, at least not in as ambitious a form as the administration requested in its fiscal 2014 budget.

Lawmakers and officials with the U.S. Agency for International Development are now in negotiations on a smaller package of changes that supporters of the overhaul hope could pave the way for incremental updates to the system of food aid delivery.

Rubio Questions State Department's Enforcement of Human Trafficking Laws

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is raising questions about whether the State Department is failing to enforce human trafficking provisions when it comes to foreign dignitaries on U.S. soil, in the wake of recent allegations of human slavery against a Saudi diplomat in Washington.

The high-profile incident at the Saudi diplomat’s home in Northern Virginia is reportedly under federal investigation; two female Filipino domestic workers have claimed they were victims of human trafficking there, with the diplomat confiscating their passports and forcing them to work long hours without pay.

Chambers Prepare for Another Round of Iran Sanctions

After a temporary lull, Congress is gearing up to try to pass new Iran sanctions legislation in the coming months that could severely restrict whole segments of Iranian commerce, including oil. The aim is to have votes in both chambers as early as June, with a consensus bill moving to the president’s desk before the August recess.

By then, Iran will have completed its presidential election and transfer of power, although most observers expect little change in Tehran’s stance on its nuclear program, given that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the ultimate arbiter of those decisions.

Partisanship Fuels Competing Narratives Over Benghazi Attack

New evidence revealed on Capitol Hill on Wednesday suggested senior State Department officials were involved in key decisions prior to the lethal attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, last September and the mischaracterizations of that attack afterward.

Those revelations are sure to feed the continued Republican-led investigations into the incident, but they did nothing to convince Democrats that GOP outrage on Benghazi is anything more than partisan gamesmanship.

Overheard on the Hill

"First time I can remember having a joint Democrats and Republicans lunch since I’ve been here.”

Rubio Says Syrian Rebels Need Ammunition as Well as Non-Lethal Assistance

As the White House considers stepping up its non-lethal assistance to Syrian rebels, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., suggested Wednesday that it also consider sending ammunition to the forces fighting dictator Bashar al-Assad.

“We don’t have to give them weapons. I think they have plenty of weapons, quite frankly,” Rubio said in remarks at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank. “What the opposition really needs is access to ammunition.”

Rand Paul Repositions Himself on Foreign Policy

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is trying to position himself as a one-man counterweight to Capitol Hill’s neoconservatives, a wing of the Republican party that has driven the GOP’s foreign policy agenda for the past decade.

In what he billed as a “major foreign policy speech” Tuesday at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Paul laid out an alternate vision for the role America should play on the global stage, which he said represents a realist — as opposed to neoconservative or isolationist — approach.

GOP's Fractured Views on Foreign Policy on Display

When it comes to foreign policy, the eight Republicans who sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the 113th Congress are all over the map — a microcosm, in many ways, of today’s fragmented GOP.

As Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the committee, observed this week, “We’ve got everything from highly engaged internationalists to realists on the committee, and . . . there’s different degrees of that” realism.

At Confirmation, Kerry Urges Congress to Restore Fiscal Order

Speaking at his secretary of State confirmation hearing, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., made an unexpected and forceful appeal Thursday to his colleagues in Congress to get the country’s own fiscal house in order, arguing that it’s a prerequisite for American leadership abroad.

“The greatest challenge to America’s foreign policy will be in your hands, not mine,” Kerry told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a panel he has chaired for the past four years.

At Testy Libya Hearings, Clinton Urges Lawmakers to 'Look Forward'

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged lawmakers Wednesday to focus on how the United States can improve security and diplomacy in unstable regions such as North Africa in the future, rather than dwell on past statements about the attack on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya, in September and the motivation of the attackers.

“It is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided” to attack the Benghazi facility, Clinton testified at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday morning. Rather, the United States needs to be “looking forward,” she said.

USAID's Shah Forges Unlikely Relationships With Conservative Republican Members

The 79-year-old longtime conservative firebrand from Oklahoma and the 39-year-old Indian-American physician from Detroit make an unlikely pair.

But there they were in early January, GOP Sen. James M. Inhofe and Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, on a dirt road in a remote part of southern Ethiopia.

Deutch Outmaneuvers Sherman for Top Democratic Spot on Middle East Panel

In a last-minute putsch, Ted Deutch nabbed the ranking member slot on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, a post that Brad Sherman had expected to win.

Sherman, D-Calif., stepped aside Tuesday after it became apparent he did not have the votes to defeat Deutch, a replay of his decision not to challenge Rep. Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., for the top Democratic spot of the full committee despite having more committee seniority. Sherman’s double defeat appears to be payback for his bruising victory over fellow Democrat and former committee ranking member Howard L. Berman for a redistricted seat in Southern California in November. Most of California’s House Democrats endorsed Berman.

Karzai, Obama Hint at Progress in Deciding Post-2014 Role in Afghanistan

The United States and Afghanistan made progress this week in resolving a dispute over the handling of detainees held in Afghanistan, improving the odds, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Friday, that the two countries will be able to reach a post-2014 security agreement.

Any such deal, however, could stir concerns in Congress, where lawmakers have objected to giving the Afghans control of captured militants they fear will simply be freed to once again take up their attacks NATO troops.

Leahy, Harkin Turn Down Top Spot on Defense Appropriations Panel

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy will remain chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department and foreign aid, passing up a chance at running the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, who would be next in line, also decided to pass.

That puts Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., in line to run the powerful panel.

Graham Links Benghazi Probe to Brennan Confirmation

Sen. Lindsey Graham says he wants answers on the intelligence community’s response to the terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya before John O. Brennan is confirmed as CIA director, suggesting he could slow the nomination.

“My support for a delay in confirmation is not directed at Mr. Brennan, but is an unfortunate, yet necessary action to get information from this administration,” the South Carolina Republican said in a written statement released Tuesday.

Hagel to Face Concerted Opposition for Top Pentagon Post

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s path to confirmation as secretary of Defense will hinge to a tremendous degree on his performance at his Senate confirmation hearing, which promises to be a blockbuster, both those in favor and against his nomination agree.

Conservative Republicans, defense hawks and much of the pro-Israel community are girding for a fight, promising a strong lobbying effort to pressure moderate Republicans and Democrats to oppose the Nebraska Republican’s nomination, which was announced Monday by President Barack Obama.

Kerry Brings Decades of Experience to Foggy Bottom

President Barack Obama’s selection of veteran Sen. John Kerry as his next secretary of State is a safe pick, one that should provide continuity with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure at Foggy Bottom.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the past four years and the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 2004, Kerry has embraced the sort of energized diplomatic engagement that Clinton has dubbed “smart power.” That has been a signature of her time at the State Department, and though the Massachusetts Democrat doesn’t have the same touch for public diplomacy as Clinton, nor her ability to work a crowd, he has demonstrated in his own way a deftness for international dialogue.