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Council Fostering Bipartisan Foreign Policy Launches New Initiative to Promote Consensus Across the Aisle

February 18, 2005
Council on Foreign Relations


February 18, 2005 - In the wake of November's divisive presidential campaign, the Council is launching an initiative to foster bipartisan foreign policy within the Congress and between Congress and the administration. "The need has never been greater," said Nancy E. Roman, vice president and director of the Washington Program, who is overseeing the initiative. "We consider it part of our mission to help bridge differences and facilitate conversations that will lead to a better foreign policy than either side could produce working on its own."

The Council will use its convening power to establish bipartisan conversation in and around the Capitol. Under the new initiative, the Council will:

  • Launch a monthly meeting for members of Congress and chiefs of staff to review the critical foreign policy issues of the day.
  • Initiate salon-style dinners in New York and Washington aimed at bringing together top officials, past and present, from both parties to discuss policy issues ranging from WMD proliferation to global disease.
  • Produce a Council Special Report to make procedural recommendations that will promote bipartisan policies for the Congress and for the administration.
  • Expand its Friday bipartisan briefings to include more senior foreign policy staff on Capitol Hill.

In addition to the new bipartisanship initiative, the Council will continue its ten-year tradition of producing nonpartisan Independent Task Force Reports. This year, under the direction of the program's executive director, Lee Feinstein, the Council plans to release three Independent Task Forces: Post-Conflict Capabilities, co-chaired by former National Security Advisers Samuel R. Berger andBrent Scowcroft; U.S. Policy Toward Reform in the Arab World, co-chaired by former Secretary of StateMadeleine Albright and former Minnesota Representative Vin Weber; and The Future of North America, a tri-national task force co-chaired by former Finance Minister of Mexico Pedro Aspe, former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada John M. Manley, and former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld. The Council is also launching new Task Forces on U.S. policy toward Africa, co-chaired by former National Security AdviserAnthony Lake and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, and on U.S. policy toward Russia, with co-chairs still to be determined.

Roman recently convened a dozen present and former policy-makers who discussed the best ways to expand Council efforts on bipartisanship, including Democrats Lee H. Hamilton and Jamie Gorelick, and Republicans Carla A. Hills and Kenneth M. Duberstein. Attendees agreed that the Council, given both its convening power and its nonpartisan tradition, is in a unique position to promote discussion between the parties. The advisory group will meet periodically to help steer the Council's initiatives.

"The Council is a truly nonpartisan institution," said Council President Richard N. Haass. "This set of initiatives is designed to help foster a return of bipartisanship at a critical moment in our country's foreign policy."

Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is an independent national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that members, students, interested citizens, and government officials in the United States and other countries can better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other governments.