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Op-Ed on “A Democrat or Republican Congress does it make a difference?”
November 9, 2006—No. 81 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed on “A Democrat or Republican Congress does it make a difference?”

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed was written October 24, 2006, prior to the elections and appeared in the October 28, 2006 issue ofThe National Herald, page 11, the November 1, 2006 issue of The Hellenic Voice, page 5, the October 30, 2006 issue of Greek News, page 44 and the November 2006 issue of the Hellenic News of America, page 3.

A Democrat or Republican Congress does it make a difference?

By Gene Rossides

Election day is November 7, 2006 for the entire 435 members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate 33 members.

Because of a number of factors, most political analysts have written that the Democrat Party has a chance to capture control of both the House and Senate. A number of analysts have predicted the Democrats will pick up 15 or more seats in the House and thereby achieve a majority. In the Senate, the Democrats need to gain 6 seats- a more difficult challenge than achieving a majority in the House.

The factors of major concern for the voters include the Iraq war and several scandals affecting primarily Republican members of the House and one House Democrat and the Democrat Minority Leader of the Senate.

The purpose of this article is to analyze and discuss from the point of view of U.S. foreign policy regarding U.S. relations with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey:

  1. Whether it makes a difference if the Republicans of Democrats control either or both the House and Senate.

What if the Democrats win control of either or both the House and Senate?The major impact will be that the Democrats would fill the leadership posts and the chairmanships of all committees and control the legislative agenda. Let’s look first at the House of Representatives.

House of Representatives

Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-8th CA) is the present Minority Leader and presumably would be elected Speaker of the House to replace the Republican Dennis Hastert. I say presumably because one article mentioned the possibility that the present Minority Whip and number two Democrat Congressman Steny Hoyer (D- 5th MD), a moderate Democrat, might run for the position of Speaker.

Ms. Pelosi is generally favorable on our issues and is close to the Greek American community in San Francisco and Sacramento.

The new chairman of the key International Relations Committee would be Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA) and the Ranking Member would probably be Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R- 18th FL), who is the leading candidate for Committee Chair if the Republicans retain the House.

Ms. Ros-Lehtinen has been a vocal and strong advocate of our positions on Cyprus, the Aegean and FYROM.

Mr. Lantos is a strong supporter of Israel and has not been known to support the Greek American community’s views on U.S. relations with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

The key International Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Emerging Threats would be headed by Congressman Robert Wexler (D- 19th FL), an arch pro-Turkish member of Congress who is co-head of the Turkish caucus and has introduced pro-Turkish legislation. The Ranking member would be Elton Gallegly (R-24th CA).

The important House Appropriations Committee would be headed by David Obey (D-7th WI) and the Ranking Member would be Jerry Lewis (R-41st CA).

The key House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs would be chaired by Representative Nita Lowey (D-18th NY) and the Ranking Member would probably be John Sweeney (R- 20th NY) or Joseph Knollenberg (R-9th MI) as the present Republican Chairman is not running for re-election.

Ms. Nita Lowey has been a supporter of our issues and she has been active with the Greek American community.


If the Democrats win a majority in the Senate, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the present Minority Leader, would become the Democrats Majority Leader and Richard Durbin (D-IL) would become the Majority Whip.

Senator Joseph Biden, Jr. (D-DE) would become Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the present Chair Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) would become Ranking Member. Senator Biden in the past has been a supporter of our issues due to the efforts of the Delaware Greek American community.

The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs would probably be headed by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) with Senator George Allen (R-VA), the present Chairman becoming Ranking Member if he wins re-election in November. Senator Dodd is favorably inclined towards our issues.

Senator Allen has spoken out favorably on our issues and responded affirmatively, in a letter to the American Hellenic Institutes’ 2006 Election Questionnaire.

The Senate Appropriations Committee would be headed by Robert Byrd (D-WV) and the Ranking Member would be Thad Cochran (R-MS).

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs would be headed by Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The Ranking Member is open at this time because Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) the present Chair, is the leading candidate to lead the Senate Republicans.

Key questions for the Democrat leadership if they win control of either or both the House and Senate are:

  1. Will they support our positions regarding the Aegean, Cyprus, FYROM, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Halki Patriarchal School of Theology and Albania set forth in the 2006 Greek American Policy Statements?
  2. Will they support our legislative proposals on Cyprus, the Aegean, FYROM and the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Halki?
  3. Will they call for hearings on our legislative proposals?
  4. Will they call for a critical review of U.S. policy toward Turkey?
  5. Will they press the Bush administration on these issues?

I cannot stress enough the overriding importance of grass roots activity with the leadership of the House and Senate and the key Committees and Subcommittees and the Executive Branch.

If the Democrats take either or both the House and Senate there will not be a change in the Bush Administration’s policy on Greece, Cyprus and Turkey unless the Greek American community acts vigorously in every state and congressional district.

Obviously the Greek American elected representatives in the House, and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) in the Senate, must play leading roles. Hopefully the four Greek Americans running for seats in the House—Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-1st NV); Gus Bilirakis (R-FL); John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Zach Space (D-OH) will win. They all have good chances to win. Olympia Snowe is up for reelection this year and is expected to win.

The role of elected Greek Americans, in the interests of the U.S. is at least three-fold—(1) to speak out on the issues of concern to our community on a regular basis; (2) to be in constant contact with the Executive Branch, the White House, the National Security Council, and the State and Defense Departments; and (3) most important is to press the Democrat and Republican leadership in the House and Senate and on the relevant committees to take action on our issues.


For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at