U.S. Democrats elect Meeks as first Black House foreign affairs chairman

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Democrats elected Greg Meeks on Thursday as the next chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a position in which he is expected to work closely with President-elect Joe Biden’s administration on the Iran nuclear deal and other issues.

Meeks, 67, who will be the first Black American to lead the committee, said he planned “a new way of doing business,” including working to rejoin the Iran nuclear pact and World Health Organization, and seeking to regain Congress’ traditional control over the right to declare war.

“Not only will we need to re-engage with a world that has felt the marked absence of U.S. global leadership, but we must also rethink traditional approaches to foreign policy,” Meeks said in a statement.

When the new Congress is seated in January, the 11-term House member will succeed fellow New York Representative Eliot Engel, who lost a Democratic primary this year to a more progressive challenger.

Engel, known as a strong advocate for Israel, was seen as too hawkish by some members of the Democratic Party’s left wing. Engel voted for the 2003 Iraq War and opposed President Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Meeks supported the nuclear agreement, and voted against the Iraq War.

The caucus vote was 148-78 for Meeks over Representative Joaquin Castro, who had campaigned for the post as a more progressive alternative to Meeks.

Castro, currently vice chairman of the foreign affairs panel, said he looked forward to working with Meeks on common goals such as promoting diversity at the State Department and rejoining the Iran nuclear deal.

Republican President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran deal in 2018 and restored harsh U.S. economic sanctions designed to force Tehran into a wider negotiation on curbing its nuclear program, development of ballistic missiles and support for regional proxy forces. Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, wants Washington to rejoin the accord.

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