The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is a standing committee of the U.S. Senate charged with leading foreign-policy legislation and debate in the Senate. It is generally responsible for overseeing and funding foreign aid programs; funding arms sales and training for national allies; and holding confirmation hearings for high-level positions in the Department of State. Its sister committee in the House of Representatives is the Committee on Foreign Affairs.Renamed from Committee on International Relations by the 110th Congress in January 2007. Along with the Finance and Judiciary committees, the Foreign Relations Committee is among the oldest in the Senate, dating to the initial creation of committees in 1816. It has played a leading role in several important treaties and foreign policy initiatives, including the Alaska purchase, the establishment of the United Nations, and the passage of the Marshall Plan. The committee has also produced eight U.S. presidentsAndrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Harrison, Warren Harding, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden—and 19 Secretaries of State. Notable members include Arthur Vandenberg, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Fulbright. Due to its long history, influence in U.S. foreign policy, jurisdiction over all diplomatic nominations, and its being the only Senate committee to deliberate and report treaties, the Foreign Relations Committee is considered one of the most powerful and prestigious in the Senate.


Between 1887 and 1907, Alabama Democrat John Tyler Morgan played a leading role on the committee. Morgan called for a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through Nicaragua, enlarging the merchant marine and the Navy, and acquiring Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Cuba. He expected Latin American and Asian markets would become a new export market for Alabama's cotton, coal, iron, and timber. The canal would make trade with the Pacific much more feasible, and an enlarged military would protect that new trade. By 1905, most of his dreams had become reality, with the canal passing through Panama instead of Nicaragua. During World War II, the committee took the lead in rejecting traditional isolationism and designing a new internationalist foreign policy based on the assumption that the United Nations would be a much more effective force than the old discredited League of Nations. Of special concern was the insistence that Congress play a central role in postwar foreign policy, as opposed to its ignorance of the main decisions made during the war. Republican senator Arthur Vandenberg played the central role. In 1943, a confidential analysis of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was made by British scholar Isaiah Berlin for the Foreign Office.
On Chairman Tom Connally: ":The chairman of the Committee, Tom Connally of Texas, is a very typical, exuberant Southern figure with the appearance and mannerisms of an old-fashioned actor and a gay and hearty manner which conceals lack both of strength and of clear public principles. He is normally the spokesman of the Administration and, in particular, of the Department of State. His voting record is that of a straight interventionist. His principal point of deviation from ecretary of StateHull's policies is the subject to which Mr. Hull has dedicated a large portion of his life, namely, the policy of reciprocal trade. Representing as he does, a great cattle breeding State, his enthusiasm for free trade with, e.g., the Argentine, is not ardent. He has been a solid supporter of the department's policies toward, e.g., France and North Africa. His support of its economic policies is regarded as doubtful. On internal issues he shares all the beliefs and prejudices of the South.
On Senator Hiram Johnson: "...is the Isolationists' elder statesman and the only surviving member of the illiam E.Borah-enry CabotLodge-Johnson combination which led the fight against the League in 1919 and 1920. He is an implacable and uncompromising Isolationist with immense prestige in California, of which he has twice been Governor. His election to the Senate has not been opposed for many years by either party. He is acutely Pacific-conscious and is a champion of a more adequate defence of the West Coast. He is a member of the Farm ''Bloc'' and is ''au fond'', against foreign affairs as such; his view of Europe as a sink of iniquity has not changed in any particular since 1912, when he founded a short-lived progressive party. His prestige in Congress is still great and his parliamentary skill should not be underestimated.
On Senator Walter F George:"..an honourable but narrow Southern Conservative, who incurred the displeasure of the New Deal in 1938 when an unsuccessful attempt to "purge" him was made by its then leaders (in particular, dwardFlynn, arryHopkins, and homasCorcoran). This attempt increased his popularity in his State and in the Senate. He left the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee in order to head the equally important Finance Committee, and is an exceedingly influential figure in the Senate, and the hope of the Conservatives in many parts of the United States.
On Senator James E Murray:"..:a millionaire lawyer who tries to out-do urton K. Wheeler as a champion of small business and labour against big business monopoly (e.g., the Anaconda Company which dominates his copper-producing State). An advocate of the second front and of stronger ties with Britain. A free trader except on copper issues. A Roman Catholic.
On Senator Henrik Shipstead:"...a rabid Isolationist of Norwegian descent, elected largely by the Scandinavian vote. A very narrow, bigoted, crotchety man, intensely antagonistic to Minnesota's Governor Harold Stassen. A member of the Farm ''Bloc'' and consistently votes against the Administration.
On Senator Arthur Vandenburg:"..a member of an old Dutch family and a respectable Mid Western Isolationist. A very adroit political manipulator, and expert parliamentarian and skillful debater. He has perennial presidential ambitions, and is grooming himself into a position of elder statesman. He is something of a snob, not at all Anglophobe, and is a fairly frequent visitor at the White House and the State Department. In common with the rest of his State delegation he votes against the Administration's foreign policies, but has nothing virulent in his constitution and is anxious to convey the impression of reasonableness and moderation. He denies that he is or ever was an Isolationist, and describes himself as a Nationalist ("like Mr. Churchill"). In 1966, as tensions over the Vietnam War escalated, the committee set up hearings on possible relations with Communist China. Witnesses, especially academic specialists on East Asia, suggested to the American public that it was time to adopt a new policy of containment without isolation. The hearings Indicated that American public opinion toward China had moved away from hostility and toward cooperation. The hearings had a long-term impact when Richard Nixon became president, discarded containment, and began a policy of détente with China. The problem remained of how to deal simultaneously with the Chinese government on Taiwan after formal recognition was accorded to the Beijing government. The committee drafted the Taiwan Relations Act (US, 1979) which enabled the United States both to maintain friendly relations with Taiwan and to develop fresh relations with China. In response to conservative criticism that the state department lacked hardliners, President Ronald Reagan in 1981 nominated Ernest W. Lefever as Assistant Secretary of State. Lefever performed poorly at his confirmation hearings and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations rejected his nomination by vote of 4-13, prompting Lefever to withdraw his name. Elliot Abrams filled the position. Republican senator Jesse Helms, a staunch conservative, was committee chairman in the late 1990s. He pushed for reform of the UN by blocking payment of U.S. membership dues.William A. Link, ''Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism'' (2008)

Members, 117th Congress


Chairmen (1816–present)

up1976 publication of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the occasion of its 160th anniversary

Historical committee rosters

Members, 116th Congress

Members, 115th Congress

Members, 114th Congress

Sources: –297

Members, 113th Congress

Sources: –297

See also

*List of current United States Senate committees



Further reading

* Carter, Ralph G. and James Scott, eds. ''Choosing to Lead : Understanding Congressional Foreign Policy Entrepreneurs'' (Duke University Press, 2009) * Crabb, Cecil Van Meter, and Pat M. Holt. ''Invitation to struggle: Congress, the president, and foreign policy'' (CQ Press, 1992) * Dahl, Robert A. ''Congress and Foreign Policy'' (1950) * Farnsworth, David Nelson. ''The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations'' (University of Illinois Press, 1961), a topical survey of the Committee's activity from 1947 to 1956. * Frye, Alton. "'Gobble'uns' and foreign policy: a review," ''Journal of Conflict Resolution'' (1964) 8#3 pp: 314-321. Historiographical review of major books * Gagnon, Frédérick. "Dynamic Men: Vandenberg, Fulbright, Helms and the Activity of the Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Since 1945.
online (2013)
* Gazell, James A. "Arthur H. Vandenberg, Internationalism, and the United Nations." ''Political Science Quarterly'' (1973): 375-394
* Gould, Lewis. ''The Most Exclusive Club : A History of the Modern United States Senate'' (2006) * Hewes, James E. Jr. "Henry Cabot Lodge and the League of Nations". ''Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society'' (1970) 114#4 pp: 245–255. *Hitchens, Harold L., "Influences of the Congressional Decision to Pass the Marshall Plan" ''Western Political Science Quarterly'' (1968) 21#1 pp: 51-68
* Jewell, Malcolm E. ''Senatorial Politics and Foreign Policy'' (U. of Kentucky Press, 1962) * Kaplan, Lawrence S. ''The Conversion of Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg: From Isolation to International Engagement'' (University Press of Kentucky, 2015) * Link, William A. ''Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism'' (2008) * McCormick, James M. "Decision making in the foreign affairs and foreign relations committees." in Randall B. Ripley and James M. Lindsay, eds.. ''Congress resurgent: foreign and defense policy on Capitol Hill'' (University of Michigan press, 1993) pp: 115-153 * Maguire, Lori. "The US Congress and the politics of Afghanistan: an analysis of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees during George W Bush's second term." ''Cambridge Review of International Affairs'' (2013) 26#2 pp: 430-452. * * Robinson, James A. ''Congress and Foreign Policy-Making'' (1962), statistical study of roll calls emphasizing the importance of the Committee * Spanier, John, and Joseph Nogee, eds. ''Congress, the Presidency and American Foreign Policy'' (Elsevier, 2013) * Warburg, Gerald Felix. ''Conflict and consensus: The struggle between Congress and the president over foreign policymaking'' (HarperCollins Publishers, 1989) * Woods, Randall Bennett. ''Fulbright : A Biography'' (Cambridge University Press, 1995) * Young, Roland. ''Congressional Politics in the Second World War'' (1958), pp 168–96

Primary sources

* Vandenberg, Arthur Hendrick, and Joe Alex Morris, eds. ''The private papers of Senator Vandenberg.'' (1952)

External links

U.S. Senate Committee of Foreign Relations Official WebsiteArchive

Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Legislation activity and reports, Congress.gov.
U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) Page for the Committee of Foreign Relations
{{Authority control Foreign Relations Category:Foreign relations of the United States Category:1816 establishments in Washington, D.C. Category:United States diplomacy