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Home / 2006 / 02 / 16 / Human Rights First Welcomes Expansion of Congressional Human Rights Caucus Hopes Bicameral Caucus Will Sharpen Focus on Human Rights Issues in the Senate
February 16, 2006

Human Rights First Welcomes Expansion of Congressional Human Rights Caucus Hopes Bicameral Caucus Will Sharpen Focus on Human Rights Issues in the Senate

Human Rights First welcomes the recent expansion of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus to the United States Senate. Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, and Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, will co-chair the newly-expanded Caucus in the Senate.

The bipartisan Caucus was founded in 1983 by Congressman Tom Lantos, Democrat of California, and former Congressman John Porter, Republican of Illinois, and has more than 240 members in the House of Representatives. Congressman Frank Wolf, Republican of Virginia, joined Lantos as Co-Chair of the Caucus when Porter retired in 2001.

“For 23 years, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus has led the way in putting human rights on the agenda of the United States Congress, shining a spotlight on abuses and ensuring that the voices of victims are heard in the corridors of power,” said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. “This expansion is particularly welcome now, when many around the world are questioning this country’s commitment to uphold human rights during times of insecurity and crisis,” Byrnes added. “We hope the newly-bicameral Caucus will signal a enhanced commitment by the Congress to ensure that the United States upholds human rights, here at home and around the world.”

The new Caucus Co-Chairs in the Senate are both well-known for their leadership on human rights issues throughout their Senate careers. Senator Brownback has brought particular focus to the plight of refugees around the world, including those who seek asylum in the United States, and has pressed for greater U.S. leadership to address the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Senator Harkin was a pioneer in mobilizing the Congress to adopt benchmark legislation conditioning US foreign aid on human rights performance, and has worked tirelessly to advance the rights of the disabled. Said Byrnes, “Senators Brownback and Harkin each have a distinguished record of promoting human rights, and we look forward to working closely with them in this new leadership role.”