Lugar’s exit spurs foreign policy reshuffle

The departure of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Republican, Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), from Congress will cause a reshuffle of foreign policy leadership in the GOP Senate caucus and could thrust Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) into a prominent role.

With Lugar losing the May 8 primary to Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the position of top Republican on the powerful committee will come open. The three senators in line for that spot are Corker, James E. Risch (Idaho) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), in that order.

With the possibility that Republicans could retake the Senate in November, Lugar’s successor could become chairman. Either way, the new top Republican will fundamentally change the character of the panel.

The most likely choice to replace Lugar is Corker, a Tennessee businessman who, like Lugar, opposed intervention in Libya and opposes it in Syria. But Corker’s foreign policy stance is even more wary of the United States using its power abroad. He said that he doesn’t believe the Syrian revolution is about “democracy.”

But Corker’s ascension is not assured. The Republican committee members have the power to vote for whomever they want. In fact, after the 2010 election, there was an effort to vote Lugar out of the ranking member’s position, but he prevailed by a slim margin.

Rubio has laid out a foreign policy vision that tracks more closely with hawks such as Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). Rubio is seen as a rising party star on foreign policy, and the chairmanship would bolster his national security bona fides ahead of a possible 2016 presidential run.

Corker might not even want the job. He also could be in line to take over the top Republican spot on the banking committee, held by Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), who is barred from continuing in that role because of committee term limits.

Corker might prefer banking over Foreign Relations, and he can’t chair both. Risch also has several possibilities for chairmanships that could change the game on who moves up.

N.J. congressman backs activist Chen’s cause

Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng’s best friend in Congress, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), told The Cable this week that the Obama administration has failed to stand up for Chen’s cause, the abuse of women under China’s one-child policy.

In an interview at the Capitol, Smith said he intends to hold a congressional hearing Tuesday on the Chen case to follow up on a May 3 hearing, which Chen phoned into. Smith has invited Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and State Department Counselor Harold Koh to the hearing, but they have not yet RSVPed.

“I don’t think they want the hearing, frankly. But we need to keep the focus on this,” Smith said.

If and when administration officials show up to testify before Smith’s Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Smith plans to press them on two things: the fight against forced abortion and forced sterilization that led to Chen’s initial imprisonment, and the plight of Chen’s friends and extended family members, who are being harassed by the Chinese government.

“The administration has hermetically sealed his message, the man and why he was in trouble, from this incident,” Smith said. “Have you heard anybody talk about that he was defending women from forced abortion? Hillary Clinton? Not a word. I Googled it.”

A State Department official, in defending Clinton this week, pointed to congressional testimony from April 2009, when she said, “When I was in China, I met with a group of women. Once again, I spoke out about the forced one-child policy. I share your horror and absolute rejection of such a policy. ”