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Gregory Meeks to become first Black American to chair House Foreign Affairs Committee

Meeks beat out Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Image Gregory Meeks
Representative Gregory Meeks, D-NY, during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on May 23, 2018.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Rep. Gregory Meeks won the approval of his Democratic colleagues Thursday to become the first Black American to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful panels on Capitol Hill.

“We've got to make sure that we get the State Department up and running,” Meeks, D-N.Y., told NBC News.

He said the first thing the committee would do is work with expected incoming secretary of state, Tony Blinken. “We've got to make sure that the morale is returned there and we get our diplomats back in, and things begin to happen again," he said

Meeks won’t be ignoring the past. Under his leadership, the committee will continue recent investigations into the potential abuses of the historically non-partisan agency, but he also intends to build upon the experience to ensure a better future for U.S. diplomats.

“How can you assure our diplomats that this won't happen again if we don't look into what did happen?” Meeks said, adding that included looking into the actions of the Trump administration and specifically Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“It hurt us in the eyes of our allies and others around the world and made us vulnerable to those who are our adversaries," he said. "We can never be put into this position again as the United States of America.”

In a competition that centered on race, seniority and the future of the Democratic Party, Meeks beat out Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and has served four terms to Meek’s eleven.

Castro thanked his colleagues for supporting his vision and said he looks "forward to working together with Chairman Meeks, particularly on our common goals such as promoting diversity at the U.S. State Department."

Departing chair Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., also extended his congratulations.