House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) is planning to slash the Western Hemisphere subcommittee nearly in half, according to a group of freshmen Republican committee members who oppose the move and say it would send a message of disinterest in the region.
GOP Reps. Maria Salazar (FL); Young Kim (CA); Peter Meijer (MI); August Pfluger (TX); Nicole Malliotakis (NY); and Ronny Jackson (TX) wrote Meeks a letter dated February 1, 2021:
We write to express our disappointment in learning that you are significantly cutting the size of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration, and International Economic Policy.
For far too long, in general, our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere have been neglected compared to other regions of the world. Sadly, your decision to reduce Member spots on the Subcommittee by almost half reflects this neglect and we strongly urge you to reconsider and return the ratio of the Subcommittee back to eight Democrat seats and six Republican seats as it was in the 116th Congress.
In the 116th Congress, there were 14 members on the Western Hemisphere subcommittee — eight Democrats and six Republicans. Now, in the 117th Congress, there will be only eight members — five Democrats and three Republicans.
Republicans are questioning Meeks’ move to make the Western Hemisphere subcommittee HFAC’s smallest subcommittee, particularly since Democrats added “migration” to the subcommittee’s jurisdiction and the Western Hemisphere includes the U.S.’s largest trading partners, Canada and Mexico.
They also cite the risk from COVID outbreaks in countries in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the growing rise of authoritarianism in Central and South America.
Meanwhile, there are 14 members for the Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights Subcommittee; 18 for the Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia and Nonproliferation Subcommittee; 20 for Europe, Energy, the Environment and Cyber Subcommittee; 20 for the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee; and 10 for the International Development, International Organizations and Global Corporate Social Impact Subcommittee.
The Republican freshmen wrote, “Such a major reduction of Members dedicated to this Subcommittee will hinder the Foreign Affairs Committee’s ability to best guide U.S. assistance to help respond to the ongoing crisis.”
They wrote that any perceived lack of attention to the region could be used by U.S. adversaries like China, Russia, and the region’s criminal groups to help undermine U.S. interests. They added:
The region also continues to face threats from the brutal socialist-communist dictatorships in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. We know all too well how fragile the democracies of the region are and the Subcommittee must have sufficient representation to oversee U.S. policy so it can best help ensure that the House of Representatives stands up to these murderous dictators, supports human rights, and provides the necessary assistance to the brave democratic actors that risk their lives for freedom and democracy.
“With all the ongoing and anticipated challenges facing our partners in the Western Hemisphere, it is clearly not the time for the lead authorizing Subcommittee in Congress to show any signs of disengagement,” they said.
“As such, we once again urge you to revert to the ratios of the 116th Congress. Thank you for your attention to this and we look forward to working with you in the 117th Congress on the various challenges facing America in our dynamic world.”