Impact 2016

A non-partisan initiative by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition to advance America's role in the world.

After Tumultuous Election
Foreign Policy Direction Less Clear

Bipartisan Congressional Support Remains Strong


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Our top takeaways on foreign policy and Election 2016:

  • Foreign Policy a Top Issue.

    As voters headed to the polls, 4 out of 5 said that foreign policy was either “extremely important” or “very important” to their vote – regardless of which presidential candidate they supported, not surprising given the growing humanitarian crises and instability in the world. However, with the historic closeness of the race, “foreign policy” likely meant something very different for many Trump and Clinton supporters. At the same time, the vast array of Congressional winners – and their opponents – ran campaigns on records that were supportive of U.S. engagement to solve global challenges.

  • U.S. Joins Rising Populist Tide Around the World.

    With that said, many pundits saw the unpredicted nature of Trump’s victory as part of a rising nationalist tide against immigration, trade, and globalization. While the exact size and nature of this anti-engagement sentiment among some American voters is unknown, a portion of voters on the left and certainly the right were clearly drawn to an anti-trade and likely broader nativist message. Expect the anxiety around global economic issues and protectionism to endure.

  • Trump’s Unconventional Foreign Policy Platform.

    After decades of GOP support for American engagement abroad, Trump’s foreign policy positions countered traditional GOP foreign policy doctrine – from challenging alliances to anti-trade rhetoric to his “America First” platform (a throwback to the original 1940s brand of isolationism). This led to significant rifts among GOP foreign policy stalwarts and sowed fears with allies overseas. Last night, Trump appeared to thread a needle between his “American interests first” campaign pledge and his words that America “will deal fairly with everyone… We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.” Eyes will be watching to see how the President-elect embraces Reagan’s “peace through strength” approach and if he fills his cabinet with internationalist advisors like Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker and National Security Transition Chair, former Congressman Mike Rogers.

  • Trump Unclear on Humanitarian and Foreign Assistance.

    Trump’s global development agenda is less clear. In launching his campaign, he said we must “stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us.” Later, however, he said that America will “continue forever to play the role of peacemaker. We will always help save lives and indeed, humanity itself… We are a humanitarian nation.” In a TV interview last April, he weighed in on our nation’s humanitarian and foreign assistance programs noting that “if we don’t help” countries facing disasters, then it would create “bigger problems.” Yet, he pivoted back in a recent letter stating “the billions we spend on child survival, maternal and child health and food aid can and must do more to help impoverished nations become capable of taking care of themselves in the future.” A key area to watch is who fills some of the key positions.

  • Pence a Likely Liaison to Congress.

    Vice President-elect Mike Pence is expected to be an important conduit between the White House and Congress, especially given his tenure in the House and friendship with Speaker Paul Ryan. A former House Foreign Affairs Committee member and noted religious conservative, Pence was a leading advocate of the President’s Emergency Response for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), calling it a “moral obligation” for the U.S. to lead in confronting the pandemic. However, even as a vocal supporter of humanitarian programs, his track record on actually funding these efforts is mixed but hopefully will shift. As Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, he supported proposals to drastically reduce or eliminate certain development agencies and programs.  

  • Congressional Winners Committed to Global Engagement.

    Many USGLC friends and allies from both sides of the aisle will return to the House and Senate as champions of America’s international affairs programs. Based on our briefings with more than 160 House and Senate candidates, the pro-engagement caucus will be strong. From Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who will return to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to in-coming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to new Senators Todd Young (IN-R) and Tammy Duckworth (IL-D) – both veterans, the 115th Senate will be full of internationalists. In the House, watch for newly elected members Mike Gallagher (R-WI), a marine and former Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer, along with Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Jim Banks (R-IN) to stake out pro-engagement platforms and committee assignments.

  • Foreign Assistance Not a Voting Issue.

    While the topic never emerged as a central issue on the national debate stage, foreign assistance was mentioned positively by winners and challengers on both sides of the aisle. One senator who won reelection proudly named global development legislation as one of his premier accomplishments. Out of several hundred television ads focused on foreign policy, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was the only candidate that ran anti-foreign assistance ads.

  • First 100 Days Inbox: Humanitarian Crises.

    Amidst a divided country and numerous domestic challenges, one area that has emerged as a consensus priority among candidates up and down the ballot is the need to address ongoing humanitarian crises, particularly in Syria. With more than 65 million people displaced around the world – the highest number ever – and three level-3 global emergencies, this will be a key area for the next Administration and Congress to work together.


The USGLC has identified the top 100 most influential positions in diplomacy and development, including the USAID Administrator and top posts at the White House, National Security Council, State Department, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the other development agencies. We’ve brought all the positions together in our Global Plum Book, which will also be updated as positions are filled.

Browse The Global Plum Book

115th Congress: A Rundown


  • The Internationalist Platform Wins.

    In Senate races across the nation, there was a bipartisan consensus on the importance of U.S. global leadership—seemingly contradicting the mood of the Presidential race. We are pleased to welcome back many good friends, including those that serve on key committees who were up for re-election: Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rob Portman (R-OH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John McCain (R-AZ), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Patty Murray (D-WA).

  • New Senators—Familiar Faces From the House.

    Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), currently the Ranking Member on the House Budget Committee, has worked tirelessly to support America’s foreign assistance programs. Another current House member, Senator-elect and Purple Heart recipient Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), is also a champion for these programs having grown up overseas. And current House member and Senator-elect Todd Young (R-IN), a Marine Corps veteran, has a supportive record as well.

  • Women Caucus Grows.

    With the election of Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) the total number of women in the Senate to 21—a historic high. All of them, including Maggie Hassan (D-NH) who succeeds Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), are expected to be strong supporters of international affairs.


House of Representatives

  • Internationalist Voices Return to Washington.

    We are happy to welcome back hundreds of friends who were re-elected, including the current Chairs and Ranking Members of the key foreign policy committees, State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman and Ranking Member Reps. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Nita Lowey (D-NY), and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman and Ranking Member, Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), as well as several good friends who were in particularly challenging races, including Reps. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Mike Coffman (R-CO), and David Young (R-IA).

  • A Freshman Class that Understands the Value of U.S. Engagement.

    Many incoming freshman bring strong international experience and pro-engagement positions to Congress. Among these are Mike Gallagher (R-WI), a Marine Corps veteran and former Senate Foreign Relations staffer; Brian Mast (R-FL), former Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) Bomb Disposal Expert in the U.S. Army and purple heart recipient; Liz Cheney (R-WY), former State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs; Francis Rooney (R-FL), former Ambassador to the Holy See; and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), former U.S. Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer and a bronze star recipient.

  • Republican Leadership Races.

    Republican leadership elections are scheduled to be held on November 15th and while there was significant consternation within the Conference before the election that seems USGLC 2016 ELECTION ANALYSIS to have at least somewhat dissipated with Donald Trump’s victory. While much could change between now and next week, Speaker Ryan remains unchallenged for his position and the race for Vice-Chair of the Conference could be the most watched with Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, and possibly others considering a run.

  • Friends Defeated.

    As of this report printing, 12 House incumbents have been defeated for reelection. USGLC particularly recognizes the leadership of Reps. Brad Ashford (D-NE), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Michael Honda (D-CA), and Bob Dold (R-IL) during their respective tenures in Congress.

  • What To Watch.

    Two races remain too close to call. The former chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is in a close race with Democrat Doug Applegate and Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) is facing a challenge by Republican Scott Jones. Both Issa and Bera are members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Incoming Freshmen Senators

Kamala Harris


Currently the Attorney General of California, Harris has laid out a foreign policy platform that says “we must do everything we can to protect our nation and our allies from the threats we face around the world – from terrorism to cyber-attacks to inadequately secured nuclear weapons to global climate change and health threats like Ebola.”

Harris strongly supports the use of development and diplomacy. Her foreign policy plan advocates for preventing military conflict around the world by utilizing “the power of smart diplomacy” adding that ”our country is strongest when we stand together with our allies and when we rally the world to act instead of simply acting alone.” She believes that the U.S. must ensure girls around the world are not denied education, employment opportunities, and full participation in civic life because of their gender. She has said “when women and girls are empowered and educated, communities are stronger and more stable and economies prosper and flourish.”

As Attorney General, she led a group of her state colleagues to Mexico to strengthen relations and signed a bilateral accord between California and Mexico to improve coordination on combatting human trafficking.


Tammy Duckworth


Congresswoman Duckworth is a combat veteran wounded in Iraq, who has strongly supported using America’s civilian tools of national security to prevent international conflict. Duckworth has said “I know the value of international not for profits, diplomacy and foreign aid. As the only global superpower we also have a responsibility to lead in issues of human rights, public health, the environment and diplomacy.”

In Congress, she voted in favor of the 2016 Global Food Security Act and the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization, as well as the 2014 Electrify Africa Act and State Department Authorization. She also spoke on the House Floor in support of victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and called for more American assistance in the relief effort. During her unsuccessful run for Congress in 2006, she called for an audit on all military and foreign assistance with the goal of ensuring that contractors had not misused taxpayer funds in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She previously served as Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Veterans Affairs and lived overseas with her family in Cambodia, where she worked in global health and development as a manager for Rotary International’s programs in the Asia-Pacific region. Duckworth is fluent in Thai and Indonesian.

Todd Young


A former Marine Corps officer, Senator-elect Young supports a robust U.S. global leadership that strengthens military and civilian programs, saying “we should ensure – as we deal with situations around the globe – that we are relying on all the instruments of national power at our disposal, and not just on our military might.” He has called U.S. global leadership “essential,” saying it can include “increased military presence, and additional investments in intelligence gathering and analysis, foreign aid, and other instruments of national power.”

In his 6 years in Congress, he has an increasingly supportive record backing the International Affairs Budget. He voted in favor of the 2016 Global Food Security Act, the Zika Response Appropriations Act, FY14 State Department Authorization, and the 2014 Electrify Africa Act. His voting record on amendments in 2011 that would cut foreign assistance was mixed, opposing one but supporting others. He also
voted twice against the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

After his military service, Young studied abroad at the University of London’s Institute of
United States Studies, whereas class president he advised their board chair, former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on student concerns. USGLC briefed Representative Young
during the campaign where he referenced his time in the Marine Corps as teaching him that
the military alone cannot solve our global challenges and there must be a mix of military and civilian tools to create security and stability.

Chris Van Hollen


Congressman Van Hollen has been a vocal champion for American global leadership and foreign assistance throughout his tenure in the House of Representatives. Van Hollen has laid out a vision for America’s global leadership around “four pillars: the strength of our democracy and economy, defense, diplomacy, and development.”

As Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, Van Hollen has offered proposals to vastly increase funding for foreign assistance programs and spoken out against shifting foreign assistance resources into short-term war-related accounts. He has a consistent voting record in favor of expanding successful foreign assistance programs. He voted for the Global Food Security Act, Electrify Africa Act – both of which he co-sponsored – and State Department Authorization. He also voted against several amendments that would have cut international food aid programs. Citing his commitment to foreign assistance programs as integral to U.S. global leadership, he has said “America must continue to play its unique leadership role around the world and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law… we can protect and promote our vital interests through a combination of a strong defense, smart diplomacy, and strategic international development programs.”

Van Hollen’s father was a career diplomat, and he was born in Pakistan and lived inIndia, Turkey, and Sri Lanka as a child. Before joining a private law practice and the Maryland state legislature, he served as a staff member for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Catherine Cortez Masto


A former prosecutor and Nevada Attorney General, Cortez Masto’s career has largely focused on domestic issues, but she has worked extensively in combating drug and human trafficking. As Attorney General, she traveled to Mexico to foster cross-jurisdictional cooperation on organized crime issues. After introducing and spearheading a bill to combat domestic and international sex trafficking in 2013, Cortez Masto presented before the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in Switzerland.

When asked about global poverty, Cortez Masto stated, “Fighting poverty in developing countries is one of the most important investments that our country makes. Economists, development experts, and our military tell us that foreign aid makes a real difference in people’s lives and prevents problems down the road.” She added that as a Senator, “I will fully support the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease in the global community. For too long, efforts to fight problems in developing countries have been an afterthought and not a priority in American politics.”

Cortez Matso has also traveled to Israel as part of a delegation of attorneys general in 2014.

Maggie Hassan


As Governor of New Hampshire, Hassan has laid out a foreign policy vision that strongly supports America’s global leadership, saying “Our country is safer and stronger when we engage with the world, and [I] will work to ensure that we bolster relationships with our allies and engage in strategic diplomacy to make sure that the global order reflects American interests and values.”

Hassan has pledged to “fight to ensure that our military remains the strongest force in the world, while recognizing that the use of America’s military superiority should be a last resort, after we have exhausted all other options.” She has also said “America’s commitment to humanitarian aid and international development around the globe reflects the best of our values – and represents a strategic investment that advances our global interests and reinforces our international leadership.” She’s cited examples from the Marshall Plan to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to humanitarian assistance for Syrians as providing “a helping hand for those in need while supporting our allies and combating the conditions that breed disillusionment and extremism.” Noting that it is less than one percent of the federal budget, Hassan has said she will work to ensure the U.S. “remains committed to these critical tools of foreign policy.”

As governor, she led a trade mission to Turkey with New Hampshire business leaders. Following the trip, Hassan said “New Hampshire trade missions have been enormously beneficial to our state’s businesses and economy, and I’m very excited to help connect our businesses with new opportunities for growth, especially in sectors such as aerospace and defense, where our state is an emerging leader.” She also traveled to Guatemala and Haiti in the mid-1970s to help provide immunizations to children.



The race for Louisiana’s open U.S. Senate seat now enters a December run-off. Under Louisiana’s “jungle primary” system, if no candidate receives 50% of the vote in the general election, then the top two vote earners face each other in a runoff the following month. In last night’s election, Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democrat Foster Campbell earned the largest shares of the vote with 25% and 17% respectively. The two will advance to the December 10th runoff.

John Kennedy


Currently Treasurer of Louisiana, Kennedy’s career has largely focused on domestic issues, but his statements and work as Treasurer in Louisiana suggests that he believes in the importance of American global leadership, having once detailed his foreign policy philosophy saying “I want a country that is strong and therefore free, that values peace but is not afraid to fight back.  America is the most powerful country in the history of the world. We need to start acting like it.”

Kennedy authorized the purchase of $5 million in Israeli bonds to diversify state investments and develop economic ties between Louisiana and Israel. Kennedy called the move a “win-win situation for Louisiana and Israel” given that it “is the only democracy” and America’s “only true friend” in the Middle East.” Kennedy has also called for working with countries to address the region’s conflicts, saying that defeating these threats, including ISIS, cannot be accomplished without partnerships and cooperation.

In his 2004 senate campaign, however, he called for eliminating foreign assistance to any country that supports terrorism saying “I want an America and a Louisiana that refuses to be bullied by terrorists, tyrants or rogue states… that values peace, but is not afraid to fight.” Recently, he has identified Iran, Pakistan, and the Palestinians as states where foreign assistance should be eliminated because they “abet terrorists.” Kennedy studied abroad at Oxford University in England where he earned a Bachelor of Civil Law Degree.

Foster Campbell


A member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission, Campbell has focused on primarily domestic issues in his career. He previously served as a member of the Louisiana State Senate from 1976 until 2002. While in the State Senate, he chaired the Agriculture Committee and the Select Committee on Consumer Affairs.

Campbell’s legislative priorities focus largely on healthcare, the environment and education. On national security and foreign policy, he has said that he will defer to military leaders and that “whatever it takes to keep this country safe, I’ll do it, I’ll support it, I’ll speak for it. Whatever it takes.”

Campbell has been supportive of international trade but said that he “would like to put on a foreign oil and gas tax. Today, they don’t pay any tax. We pay it, and people are producing oil but people in Venezuela who ship it in here, they pay no tax. It’s grossly unfair.” He wants to use the tax income to improve Louisiana’s healthcare, schools, and the environment.


PHOTO SOURCES: Harris / Duckworth / Kennedy / Campbell / Van HollenCortez Masto / Hassan