House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Chair: Eliot Engel

D

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

40 Policy/Legislative Hearings

124 Total Hearings

Last updated: June 1, 2021, 6:19 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.

In the 116th Congress (2019-20) under new Chair Eliot Engel (D-NY), the slump in committee activity worsened, only part of which can be attributed to the pandemic-shortened schedule. However, the committee held a creditable number of investigative oversight hearings, five, a big jump from the previous Congress’s two. In June 2019 it held a hearing challenging the administration’s use of emergency claims to get around arms sales approvals by Congress. In September in looked into President Trump’s controversial “Muslim ban,” and in October it held a hearing entitled, “The Betrayal of our Syrian Kurdish Partners: How Will American Foreign Policy and Leadership Recover?” In February 2020 it examined the administration’s aggressive Iran policies. And in September 2020 it asked why Trump had fired the State Department’s Inspector General, who was reportedly investigating misconduct allegations against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.


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 100% of the way through the 116th Congress

House Committee on Foreign Affairs

5 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 78% historical maximum
40 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 50% historical maximum
124 Total Hearings; 69% 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 40 124 64% D
Historical average 4.7 71.8 176.5

* 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