During Africa Summit, a Rare D.C. Species Is Spotted: Bipartisanship

Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., chairman of the Foreign Relations Africa Subcommittee. Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., chairman of the Foreign Relations Africa Subcommittee. Cliff Owen/AP

In other parts of Washington, participants in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit were talking Monday about how to save the endangered pygmy hippopotamus, the black rhinoceros, and the Ethiopian wolf. But on Capitol Hill, something even more threatened was on display—bipartisanship. There, in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, Republicans and Democrats met with the visiting African leaders here for their three-day summit with President Obama.

Attendance was held down because of the congressional recess, but 23 members signed up for the session, 16 Democrats and seven Republicans, according to the office of Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., chairman of the Foreign Relations Africa Subcommittee. For Coons, the event simply makes public what he sees as the reality of American policy-making affecting the continent.

"One of the great things about U.S.-Africa engagement is that it is truly bipartisan in the interest and support in the Senate," Coons told reporters. "The legislation we need to move, the issues that deserve our attention, have as much support and engagement from senior Republicans as Democrats." Because of that, he said, there has been great continuity in American policy toward Africa from President Clinton to President George W. Bush and, now, to President Obama. "Virtually every one of President Bush's initiatives relative to Africa are continued or strengthened. And President Obama's administration has simply built on it," he said.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the committee, did not attend the reception Monday night. But his office stressed it was because he is back in Arizona, not because of differences with Coons. In a statement to National Journal, he boasted of "a solid working relationship" with Coons, adding that "[I] admire the leadership he's shown on Africa issues."

Twenty years ago, that would have been an unremarkable statement in Congress. Today it is difficult to find many committees where there is as much comity. "There is just broad agreement on most of the issues that come before the subcommittee," said Jamie Serlin, a spokesman for Coons. She noted there are few differences between the House and Senate versions of Power Africa, Obama's proposal to double the number of people with access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. Both parties also support the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, first signed into law by Clinton. Bipartisan support also remains strong for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, first championed by Bush.

"It is kind of a unique issue area where there are shared goals," explained Serlin. "Across the board, Democrats and Republicans want peaceful, democratic nations, strong trade partners and development in Africa. These are shared goals."

The shared goals have even led the White House to do something it rarely does these days—praise Congress. "Congress has played an enormous role on a bipartisan basis in supporting Africa policy," said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. "It is important to note that in an environment in Washington where there's not a lot of bipartisan agreement, Africa has been the true exception."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.