Congresswoman Karen Bass, who has a keen interest in Afrcan affairs, is projected to win a fifth term in Tuesday’s US midterm elections on November 7, 2018. Ms Bass has visited Kenya twice in recent years. PHOTO | SOCIAL MEDIA
Friend of Kenya set to take charge of US House panel
The Democratic Party’s takeover of the US House of Representatives will likely result in an African-American woman becoming chair of the chamber’s Africa policy subcommittee.
Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is projected to win a fifth term in Tuesday’s US midterm elections, has visited Kenya twice in recent years.
The 65-year-old Democrat who represents a Los Angeles district travelled with Barack Obama on his first presidential trip to his father’s homeland in 2015.
Ms Bass was also co-leader of a National Democratic Institute team that monitored Kenya’s August 2017 presidential election.
She praised what initially appeared to be a peaceful, credible exercise in democratic decision-making, saluting the large numbers of Kenyans who waited patiently to cast their ballots.
“I’d give anything to have a turnout like that back home,” Congresswoman Bass said following what would prove to be the first of two Kenyan presidential elections last year.
Her expected takeover of the top post of the House’s Africa panel will probably not result, however, in major shifts in US policy.
Congressman Chris Smith, the Republican who has headed the Africa subcommittee, opposed President Trump’s efforts to slash spending on US aid to Africa.
“The president proposes; Congress disposes,” Mr Smith told a Trump administration official at a subcommittee hearing last year. “Congress will make sure we get humanitarian assistance to where we need it most.”
Mr Smith has taken a keen interest in African affairs, regularly convening hearings on conflicts and policy initiatives.
His approach reflects a longstanding Republican-Democratic congressional consensus on Africa issues that has not been eroded by Mr Trump’s indifference or occasional belligerence toward the continent.
But Congresswoman Bass may adopt a more confrontational tone in her subcommittee’s dealings with Mr Trump’s Africa team.
At a subcommittee hearing last year, she lamented the policy positions that two veteran State Department diplomats had been required to present as representatives of the Trump administration.
“I know you have to support this budget, and it must be very painful because it’s just filled with contradictions,” Congresswoman Bass told the officials in regard to Mr Trump’s proposals for steep reductions in funding for African programmes.
“This budget does not reflect your illustrious careers, and I’m sorry you have to be put in a position to defend it,” Ms Bass added.
Source: Daily Nation