Foreign Policy

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  The Impact Of The 110Th Congress On U.S. Foreign PolicyDecember 26, 2007 10:11 The 2006 elections brought Democratic majorities to the House of Representatives and the Senate, with a new leadership determined to change U.S. policy in Iraq. In the first year of the 110th Congress, Democratic lawmakers steadily challenged President Bush but failed to budge policy on Iraq. Their impact on other foreign policy issues was mixed. Their inability to pass legislation on immigration, domestic surveillance, and other chief issues contributed to sliding approval ratings in surveys like the USA Today/Gallup poll issued at the end of 2007. On the other hand, they fulfilled pledges to bolster some homeland security protections and passed an energy package with sweeping changes to vehicle fuel economy and other conservation efforts. And the Democratic leadership says it will continue to press for a timeline for withdrawing from Iraq, in part because of strong antiwar sentiments among party constituents.

How Much has the Democratic Congress Affected Iraq War Policy?

Other attempts in both chambers to establish withdrawal timelines were similarly thwarted by presidential veto threats and the solidarity of Republicans in the Senate, where Democrats hold only a slim majority.

Democrats did markedly increase the congressional oversight function on Iraq, holding numerous hearings on issues ranging from how prewar intelligence was handled, to abuses of private contracting, and the conduct of the war itself.
  Venezuela To Donate More Heating Oil To U.S. PoorDecember 10, 2007 21:58 Standing on the deck of an oil tanker in Massachusetts Bay on Monday, Venezuelan energy officials kicked off the third year of a controversial program of delivering subsidized home-heating oil for the U.S. poor.

A Houston unit of a state-owned company backed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a foe of the Bush administration, will supply oil at 40 percent below market prices in 23 states, an expansion from 16 states last year.

The donations by Citgo Petroleum Corp, owned by Venezuelan state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, are worth about $147 million at market prices.

Deliveries began arriving at homes just as a deadly ice storm swept the U.S. Plains and many Americans start to grapple with record heating bills to heat this winter.

"This is the biggest social program any oil company has ever done in this country," Citgo Petroleum president Alejandro Granado told reporters at a port in Braintree, Massachusetts.

"We didn't stop and think about politics. We need to share a little bit of our tremendous profits."

Flush with funds from soaring oil prices, Chavez has used Venezuela's petroleum wealth to secure closer ties with South American neighbors and in 2005 proposed the U.S. heating oil program to trim costs for America's poor -- a group he says President George W. Bush's government has neglected.

  Us Democrats Want Rethink On IranDecember 03, 2007 22:19 The Democrats in the United States have called for a rethink of policy on Iran.
It comes after a major new intelligence assessment suggested the government in Tehran is not trying to develop nuclear weapons at present.

The latest National Intelligence Estimate says it is now believed Iran stopped its weapons programme in 2003.

The Democrat leader of the US Senate, Harry Reid, said he hoped the White House would undertake "a diplomatic surge" to engage with Iran.

"I hope this administration reads this report carefully and appropriately adjusts its rhetoric and policy vis-a-vis Iran," said Mr Reid.

He added that the Bush administration should emulate former President Ronald Reagan's engagement with the Soviet Union.
  China Blocked Another U.S. ShipDecember 01, 2007 09:01 China turned down a request for another U.S. Navy ship to visit Hong Kong amid a spat over a long-planned docking of the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Washington has complained that China, at the last minute, blocked a visit by the Kitty Hawk and accompanying ships for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday last week. Family and friends of crew members had flown in to meet their loved ones.

The United States has also complained China refused to let two minesweepers shelter from a storm in Hong Kong last week.

On November 22, China made a late reversal of its decision to bar the Kitty Hawk but by then the ship was steaming away from Hong Kong and could not return, U.S. officials have said.

But when China told the United States it was reversing course, it also rejected a request for the USS Reuben James, a frigate with about 200 crew, to visit Hong Kong over the New Year holiday, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Also on November 22, China told the United States it would not allow the next planned quarterly flight into Hong Kong by a C-17 aircraft to support the U.S. consulate there, said the spokesman, Marine Corps Maj. Stewart Upton.

China's actions have prompted speculation it wanted to show irritation over U.S. plans to help Taiwan upgrade its missile system and a meeting between President George W. Bush and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.