Jim’s interest in foreign affairs began in earnest in the late 1960s when he served in the U.S. Navy as a psychiatrist and treated soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. In 1987, Jim served as a U.S. Foreign Service Medical Officer in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), where he provided psychiatric services to Foreign Service, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Peace Corps personnel in sub-Saharan Africa. Jim’s experience in developing countries has informed his views on the critical role that the U.S. government plays in helping countries lift themselves out of poverty and building global coalitions to address worldwide challenges.
In the U.S. House, Jim has been a resolute voice in international affairs, championing legislation to elevate the most vulnerable countries from poverty through trade promotion; to protect human rights in conflict areas; to oversee U.S. warfare activities abroad, particularly the use of enhanced interrogation; and to support a robust foreign assistance budget (Seattle Times op-ed).
After serving as a U.S. Foreign Service Medical Officer in 1987 and having since traveled throughout Africa on a number of occasions, Jim understands the need to help Sub-Saharan Africans help themselves. Jim was the principle author of the “Africa Growth and Opportunity Act,” which serves as our country’s trade arrangement with Africa and helps African nations build their economies. Jim is also the principal author of the “Conflict Minerals Trade Act” – legislation that is now law and requires transparency and good governance over the sourcing of minerals in Central Africa.
Jim is a founding co-chair of the House Central Africa Caucus, where he focuses on building awareness and understanding in Congress on governance, development, trade, security, and counterterrorism challenges facing the region. Jim understands that the U.S. can do more – Africa needs more technical trade assistance, more support for democratic institutions, and more help with its public health systems, and he is committed to supporting initiatives that will help African countries in each of these areas.
Jim’s longstanding interest in Asia stems from his work with constituents of the 7th District, many of whom belong to the Asian-Pacific Islander (API) community. Jim’s district is home to the largest Filipino-American community in the country, and he has supported the establishment of community organizations that serve the needs of the API community. Organizations such as Seattle-Surabaya Sister City Association, which was established in 1992, serve to connect the people of Seattle to countries in Asia. Over the years, Jim has sponsored several pieces of legislation in support of the API community and he has led many important programs, such as the U.S.-Japan Legislative Exchange Program.
Jim is currently a co-chair of the Congressional Study Group on Japan, co-chair of the U.S.-Japan-South Korea Legislative Exchange Program run by George Washington University, and a leading member of the Congressional Japan Caucus. Jim was an early supporter of H.Res.172 which called for assistance to the people of Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunamis of March 11, 2011. Jim continues to contribute expertise on Asia to better understanding in the House about the region’s political and economic significance. In April 2011, Jim visited South Korea on a Congressional Delegation with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to discuss the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.
Jim’s interest in human rights has guided his work in Congress, and he has been particularly active in human rights issues in Latin America. In 1990, at the height of the country’s brutal civil war, Jim led a congressional delegation to El Salvador to promote the safety of medical workers in the country and to assess whether the United States should continue its military assistance to the country. The following year, Jim introduced the “Peace, Democracy and Development in El Salvador Act,” which called for an end to U.S. military aid to El Salvador and called for preservation of internationally recognized norms of medical neutrality. In July 2011, Jim introduced the “Medical Neutrality Protection Act of 2011” in response to attacks against doctors and medical professionals in foreign countries.
In May, 2011, Jim joined 86 other Members in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing concern about protection of human rights, freedom of expression, and the rule of law in Honduras.
Jim is very attentive to the free exercise of labor rights throughout the Americas, and he played a major role in designing the Action Plan related to Labor Rights in Colombia as a precondition to Congressional ratification of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
More than ten years after the September 11th attacks, the United States has spent trillions of dollars in an effort to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. More than 4,400 American troops died in Iraq, and at least 2,100 U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan. Jim was one of the most vocal opponents of the U.S. invasion of Iraq undertaken by President George W. Bush. Long before the American public learned that the Bush Administration had deliberately misrepresented the intelligence and the threat from Iraq, Jim correctly argued that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and no justification for war against that country.
Jim supports a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. In July 2010, Jim voted against the Defense Department’s $59 billion emergency supplemental war-funding bill, which supported deployment of an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Jim is an original cosponsor of several key pieces of legislation on Afghanistan, including the “Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act” (H.R. 780) and the “U.S.-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement” (H.R. 651). In a February 2013 article, he stressed the importance of supporting non-military initiatives in the country, such as promoting political reconciliation among opposing factions and strengthening the rule of law, which will ultimately create a foundation for peace and stable government.
Among international challenges for U.S. foreign policy, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an especially difficult dispute. Jim has worked hard to become well-informed about this situation, traveling to the region many times in an ongoing effort to better understand its deep complexities. Jim embraces the universally shared quest for self-determination, which inspired pro-democracy uprisings throughout the Middle East in early 2011. He is committed to Israel’s ongoing success as a thriving democracy and understands that peace and security for all parties is critical to resolving this long-standing conflict. Jim was an early supporter of President Obama’s vision of a two-state solution. In January 2010, Jim led the letter, known as “The Gaza 54,” in which 54 Members of Congress called on President Obama to press for immediate relief for the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.