The recent midterm elections brought vast changes to the composition of the United States Congress. The Republicans established firm control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats maintain only a slim Senate majority in a shake-up that will invariably affect U.S. domestic and foreign policy goals.
Amidst these changes the Congressional Caucus on Bosnia saw five of its 31 members losing elections, leaving us to ask what these changes will mean for U.S. policy toward Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 112th Congress.
One of the most notable changes is the ascension of ranking Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) to the helm of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC.) Representative Ros-Lehtinen is well known in the committee for having a conservative stance on key foreign policy issues, which counter those of outgoing HFAC Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) and the Obama Administration. However, BAACBH is concerned with Representative Ros-Lehtinen's decision not to co-sponsor H. Res. 171, a Congressional resolution introduced in 2009 by Representative Berman "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives on the need for constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the importance of sustained United States engagement in partnership with the European Union (EU)."
The House Resolution 171 was a profound victory for all supporters of a unified and prosperous BiH and was reinforced by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton during her most recent trip to the Balkans in early October. Secretary Clinton has repeated the interest of the United States in strengthening BiH through constitutional reform and supporting its EU and NATO aspirations.
At this time it is unclear what the primary focus of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) will be in the next Congress but it is likely that the focus will be on the U.S. policy towards Israel, anti-terrorism legislation, and curtailment of the level of spending on foreign aid. BiH is not seen as a central focus and BAACBH hopes that BiH will not be left by the wayside because its stability is vital to the peace and prosperity of the Balkan region.
BAACBH looks forward to working with the new Congressional leadership and it is our hope that they will honor their predecessors' involvement with BAACBH and add to the diversity of the Congressional Caucus on Bosnia. Moreover, it is our greatest wish for Representative Ros-Lehtinen to be a steadfast supporter of BiH's constitutional reform process as a way to expedite its accession into the EU and NATO.
BAACBH encourages all Bosnian-Americans who have a freshman Senator/Representative-elect in their district/state to contact us, so that we can include you in our outreach and education efforts in your district/state.