After nearly 22 years in the House and becoming the Republican's longest serving female member of that body, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is about to get her biggest taste of power yet in DC. When the GOP assumes control of the House in January, Ros-Lehtinen will become the chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Already detractors are digging up a clip in which she seemingly called for the assassination of Fidel Castro to smear the newly powerful politician.
Ros-Lehtinen will become the first Hispanic, first female and seemingly the first foreign born chair of the important committee.
Foreign Policy has a pretty good roundup of what to expect of Ros-Lehtinen's tenor. They note her staff is " very disciplined and at the same time aggressive," and are likely to clash with the Obama administration on a number of issues, most prominently dealing with Cuba.
Over the mid to long term, Ros-Lehtinen is poised to thwart Obama's efforts to move toward repealing sanctions on Fidel Castro and resist any White House attempts to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She isn't likely to move Berman's foreign-aid reform bill through the committee and she is likely to seek cuts in the foreign-aid budget in her authorization bill.
But most significantly, gone will be the days when the committee deferred to the administration on the order of foreign-policy priorities. The committee will also stop taking the administration's word when it comes to matters of policy oversight.
Foreign Policy's blog, The Cabal, however today reported that they received dozens of e-mails highlighting this clip in which Ros-Lehtinen appears to call for the assassination of Fidel Castro in an interview for a British documentary.
Ros-Lehtinen claimed at the time that her remarks were spliced together and taking out of context, but also noted she wouldn't be crying if Castro ended up with an assassin's bullet in his forehead.
It's unlikely the video will have any substantial effect of Ros-Lehtinen's chairmanship, but is likely to brought up again and again by Liberal blogs.
More interesting to watch will be her effects on changing policy towards Cuba.
Ros-Lehtinen is also one of the few Republican elected officials who unabashedly supports gay rights. While some see at a shallow political bet considering her district includes areas like South Beach and Key West, while the suburban Miami Republicans that make up the majority of her constituency aren't always on the same page on social issues as the rest of the GOP. It'll be interesting to see if she puts her money where her mouth is when dealing with countries that oppress their LGBT citizens.
It's also interesting to note that Ros-Lehtinen is every bit the type of Republican that tea baggers rallied against. She has a very moderate voting record and is a standard career politician. While the Tea Party seems to be more concerned with domestic issues, it's worth asking if any newly elected members who rode to success on the Tea Party wave will clash with her. She does however have a powerful Tea Party ally in Marco Rubio. He begin his political career by interning in her office. Though, she did not endorse him in the senate race.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.