Castro launches bid for House Foreign Affairs gavel

Greg Nash

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) on Tuesday announced his intent to run for chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, setting the stage for a competitive race for the gavel.

Castro, a relatively junior member of the committee in terms of seniority, threw his hat in the ring about a week after Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the committee, said he intends to run for the top post.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), the second-ranking member on the committee, is believed to be campaigning for the gavel as well but has yet to make a public announcement. His office didn’t immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.

The current chairman of the committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), recently lost his primary to progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman.

Democrats are largely expected to keep control of the House in November, meaning whoever is chosen for the top Democratic post on the committee will likely be the next chairman.

Castro, who serves as vice-chair of the committee, announced his campaign on Medium, writing that his vision for foreign policy “promotes inclusive prosperity and democracy at home and a more holistic view of security abroad.”

He also called for a “new generation” to confront global challenges and emphasized progressive policies.

The top Democratic posts on House committees are often decided by seniority on the panel, with campaigning conducted among Democratic lawmakers who later cast votes.

Meeks, however, is seen as the front-runner, even though Sherman has seniority on the committee.

Meeks has the support of the Congressional Black Caucus, with some of its members saying Congress needs to prioritize diversity in its leadership roles.

In his announcement last week, Meeks, who joined Congress in 1998, stressed his experience as a relationship builder.

“I have spent my career dedicated to forming relationships not just with our allies, but also with our competitors, including forging pathways forward with our adversaries,” he said in a statement.

Meeks brandished his progressive bonafides, noting he voted against the Iraq war in 2002 and for the nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015, issues that progressive groups have highlighted as reflecting larger values of the Democratic Party.

Meeks is calling for moving “proactively forward” in foreign diplomacy.

Yet Castro, who was first elected to Congress in 2012, is painting himself as “a new generation” — at 45 years old, the Texas Democrat is 20 years younger than both Meeks and Sherman.

He also satisfies the need for more diversity in committee leadership positions. A second-generation Mexican American, Castro said he would use the gavel to “put our country’s identity as a nation of immigrants at the forefront of our foreign policy.”

Despite a relatively short amount of time in Congress, Castro said his posts on the Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees have put him at the “the nexus of American national security and U.S. foreign policy.”

He also called for a “reckoning” in foreign policy that reflects the domestic grievances about inequality.

“In this moment of pandemic and protest, we are confronting hard truths about how unequal our nation remains. Our foreign policy is due for a similar reckoning,” he wrote on Tuesday. “The challenges of the 21st century are immense, but a new generation of Americans is ready to lead.”

Tags Brad Sherman Eliot Engel Gregory Meeks Joaquin Castro

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