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Fla. lawmakers influence foreign affairs

WASHINGTON — Looking for a member of the Florida congressional delegation? Try the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Six of the 25 House members from Florida are on the committee, including its chair, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami.

Members and observers say the plethora of Floridians on the 46-member committee is not a glut of representation, but reflects the state's eclectic diversity.

Miami Democrat Rep. Frederica Wilson, for example, represents a congressional district with more Haitian-Americans than anywhere else in the country.

Her North Miami district, Wilson notes, is home to a large immigrant population from the Caribbean and Latin America and "my constituents care deeply about U.S. foreign policy."

California has seven members on the panel; New York has five.

University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith said the representation by the three large states speaks to the states' diversity.

"Florida is arguably the most diverse state in the union when it comes to race and ethnicity," he said. "And the committee assignments are largely driven by the constituency concerns and issues of these members."

Ros-Lehtinen said the state is well represented on the committee and "rightfully so," because international policy for many Florida constituents "is as important as domestic issues."

Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, who represents a district believed to have the largest number of Holocaust survivors, serves on the committee. As a state senator, Deutch passed legislation to divest from companies that support Iran's energy sector. Others on the panel include Cape Coral Republican Connie Mack, a vociferous critic of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; Tampa Republican Gus Bilirakis; and David Rivera, R-Miami, who was dubbed the Foreign Minister in Tallahassee for his propensity to pursue anti-Castro legislation.

The Havana-born Ros-Lehtinen has an obvious interest in Cuba but has said it won't be her sole focus. Her first hearing Wednesday looked at the turmoil in Egypt, with Ros-Lehtinen accusing the Obama administration of failing early on "to seize the opportunity to press for reform."

She and Rivera both went to the House floor to ask colleagues to approve legislation to force the United Nations to give back $179 million in overpayments. The measure failed.

Fla. lawmakers influence foreign affairs 02/09/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 11:23pm]

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