The political significance of Lugar’s defeat may exaggerated, but his departure from the Foreign Relations Committee could end up elevating a much more hawkish Senator to be the Republican ranking member. Josh Rogin reports that many Republicans are unhappy with Bob Corker, Lugar’s possible replacement:
But Corker’s accession is not assured. The Republican committee members have the power to vote for whomever they want. In fact, after the 2010 election, there was an effort to vote Lugar out of the ranking member’s position, but Lugar prevailed by a slim margin.
For some Republicans both on and off Capitol Hill, Corker is seen as neither aggressive nor hawkish enough on key foreign policy issues.
“It’s difficult to make the case that someone who doesn’t even see the merits of the fall of Bashar al-Assad for American interests deserves to have the top Republican spot on the committee,” said one GOP foreign policy pundit. “There are other Republicans, such as Sen. Rubio, who have advocated a much more coherent and thoughtful foreign policy vision that might make them more appealing replacements for Sen. Lugar.”
The argument for Corker over Rubio isn’t hard to make, and it isn’t even a matter of policy preferences or ideology. Corker was already working on the committee while Rubio was still a candidate. Corker hasn’t been in the Senate very long, but he still has more relevant experience than Rubio. Selecting a neophyte as ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee would be a clear signal that Republican members aren’t even pretending to care about expertise, but want to promote someone based on ideological considerations alone.