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Who is Gregory Meeks, new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee?

A landmark appointment in diversity on one of the most powerful committees in Congress, who is New York Rep. Gregory Meeks and what is his background?

Who is Gregory Meeks, new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee?
Larry Downing REUTERS

Representative Gregory Meeks on Thursday became the first Black American to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful panels in Congress. He’s been proven the favourite among his Democratic colleagues by beating Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus by 148 votes to 78.

“We've got to make sure that we get the State Department up and running,” Meeks 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

With Meeks as leader, the committee will continue with investigations that began recently, into alleged abuses of the historically non-partisan group. He has expressed a desire to build upon the learnings from those experiences to improve the workings of the committee in the future.

“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 added. "We can never be put into this position again as the United States of America.”

His opponent Castro thanked his colleagues for supporting his vision and added that he looks "forward to working together with Chairman Meeks, particularly on our common goals such as promoting diversity at the U.S. State Department." Meeks’ predecessor Rep. Eliot Engel of New York also extended his congratulations.

Who is Gregory Meeks?

Gregory Meeks has so far served 11 terms in the US House of Representatives for New York’s 5th congressional district. The district constitutes most of south east Queens, from Hillside to Far Rockaway and through to John F. Kennedy Airport.The demographic of this district has long been largely African American and West Indian communities of all class backgrounds.

Meeks was born in East Harlem in New York City, raised in a housing project and went on to graduate from Howard University Law School.

As an attorney he first worked for the Narcotics Prosecution Department in New York, and later the Investigations Commission on organised crime. He also served as a member of the lower house of the New York State Legislature, the New York State Assembly for five years until 1998.