By Jeremy Herb
President Obama's envoy to Syria is headed to Capitol Hill this week to testify on efforts to remove Syria’s chemical weapons and the potential for a political settlement to the two-year civil war.
U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford is slated to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, along with officials from the State Department and other agencies.
Ford was recalled to Washington in October 2011 after receiving death threats over his perceived support for the rebels. He is expected to soon take over as ambassador to Egypt.
The hearing is being held after the United States and Russia reached an agreement to require Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to the international community. The Obama administration is also pushing for peace talks to take place between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and the Syrian opposition next month.
In addition to Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria, Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-N.J.) House Foreign Affairs human rights subcommittee is holding a hearing Wednesday on establishing a Syrian war crimes tribunal, which Smith has advocated for.
Congress is in for a busy week beyond Syria, as the House and Senate are both back in session for the first time since the government shutdown ended.
The newly created House-Senate budget committee is expected to meet for the first time on Wednesday, as leaders hope to strike an agreement that would tackle entitlements, tax reform and sequestration.
Defense hawks on the House Armed Services Committee last week urged the bicameral committee to spare the Pentagon from further sequester cuts and undo sequestration.
The defense panel has held a series of hearings highlighting the dangers of sequestration to the military, which is facing a $20 billion cut in January if sequester is not averted.
Sequestration is also a likely topic when the Armed Services panel unveils its plans for a series of hearings on the military’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region at a Tuesday press briefing.
The panel also has a trio of Tuesday subcommittee hearings scheduled: on acquisition reform, protecting women’s rights in Afghanistan and nuclear weapons modernization.
Both the House and Senate Homeland Security committees plan to delve into last month’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. The House panel is holding a Wednesday hearing on facility protection and the shooting’s implications on homeland security, while the Senate committee will examine government clearances and background checks on Thursday.
With criticism of the National Security Agency’s spying programs mounting across the globe, the House Intelligence Committee will be holding a rare open hearing on the NSA programs Tuesday.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Deputy Attorney General James Cole are scheduled to testify.
Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) are working on legislation that would make tweaks to the agency to rebuild public confidence but still preserve the core of its power.