Pro-Israel hawk gets top spot on House Foreign Affairs's new Middle East panel

The term-limited chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), has been named to the coveted top spot on the panel's new Middle East and North Africa subcommittee, giving her a key platform to pursue her hawkish pro-Israel views.

The incoming chairman, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), announced his picks to lead the subpanels on Tuesday. Incoming freshman Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), who previously served from 1995 to 2000, will replace defeated Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) atop the Western Hemisphere panel, while Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) takes over from Royce atop the subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.

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Other subcommittee chairmen will get moved around.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), former chairman of the revamped subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, gives up jurisdiction over the Middle East to Ros-Lehtinen but gets to keep the other half of his former role as the new chairman of the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, taking over from defeated Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.). Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) takes over an expanded subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats from retired Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) after the elimination of his subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. And Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) retains his post atop an expanded subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

The committee will have a total of 25 Republicans and 21 Democrats, an increase of one Democrat from the beginning of the last Congress.

"I am pleased to announce these Subcommittee chairmen, all of whom will be valuable members of the Foreign Affairs Committee leadership team and critical to fulfilling the important mission of the Committee. This slate of chairmen brings to the Committee leadership a vital mix of seasoned experience and fresh perspective. Together, we will address some of the gravest threats facing the United States — chief among them Iran’s nuclear program," Royce said in a statement. 

"In the 113th Congress, the Committee will also work to boost U.S. economic growth overseas, provide effective oversight of the Obama Administration’s foreign policies, give a greater focus to Asia, respond to security threats and new governments in the Middle East, and provide aggressive oversight of foreign aid."