House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Chair: Eliot Engel

D-

Projected Grade for the 116th Congress*

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

5 Investigative Oversight Hearings

37 Policy/Legislative Hearings

114 Total Hearings

Last updated: Sept. 26, 2020, 1:46 p.m.

The committee has similar jurisdiction over foreign policy and foreign aid to its Senate counterpart, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But because it doesn’t confirm ambassadors, frequently a source of media interest, and doesn’t approve treaties (only a Senate vote is needed for ratification), it doesn’t have the same high profile. It has a tradition of being more bipartisan than many House committees, and all its recent chairs, Democratic and Republican, have scored well in The Lugar Center’s Bipartisan Index. Although the Constitution gives the executive branch significant independence in foreign affairs, the committee typically is active in monitoring human rights policies, development priorities, the State Department budget and U.S. relations with both allies and with hostile overseas actors. The committee has six subcommittees, organized primarily by region: Africa, global health, global human rights and international organizations; Asia, the Pacific and nonproliferation; Europe, Eurasia, energy and the environment; Middle East, North Africa, and international terrorism; Western Hemisphere, civilian security and trade; and oversight and investigations.

In recent Congresses the committee has had an up-and-down record of hearing activity. When veteran representative Ed Royce (R, Cal.) took over the gavel in 2013, at the start of the 113th Congress and the first year of President Obama’s second term, the committee launched a flurry of hearings, especially for policy and legislative oversight, far outstripping the record of the two previous chairs, a Republican and a Democrat. He also maintained healthy number of investigative oversight hearings. That lasted for two Congresses. But during the 115th Congress (2017-2018), during President Trump’s first two years in office, hearing activity fell back to previous levels, or below.

Investigative oversight hearings dropped sharply in the 115th Congress under Chair Royce, with just two, compared to an average of nearly seven during each of the three previous Congresses. In March of 2017, the committee held an investigative hearing critical of the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran; and in October, 2017, it held a hearing on a Government Accountability Office report on weaknesses in the State Department’s oversight of its $100 million-a-year anti-terrorism assistance program.


Chairs

111th Congress: Howard Berman (D-CA)

112th Congress: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

113th Congress: Ed Royce (R-CA)

114th Congress: Ed Royce (R-CA)

115th Congress: Ed Royce (R-CA)

116th Congress: Eliot Engel (D-NY)


Current Congress

We are 95% of the way through the 116th Congress

House Committee on Foreign Affairs

5 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 75% historical maximum
37 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 44% historical maximum
114 Total Hearings; 61% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings Score Grade
111th Congress 0 51 132 50% F
112th Congress 8 79 188 86% B
113th Congress 6 99 224 99% A
114th Congress 7 100 218 100% A
115th Congress 2 62 173 67% D
116th Congress* 5 37 114 60% D-
Historical average 4.7 71.3 174.8

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

Number of Hearings

--- Historical Average

Hearings held by the
House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Date Hearing Title Committee Category