The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was established in 1816 as one of the original ten standing committees of the Senate. Throughout its history, the committee has been instrumental in developing and influencing United States foreign policy, at different times supporting and opposing the policies of presidents and secretaries of state. Through these powers, the committee has helped shape foreign policy of broad significance, in matters of war and peace and international relations. Members of the committee have assisted in the negotiation of treaties, and at times have helped to defeat treaties they felt were not in the national interest. The committee also holds jurisdiction over all diplomatic nominations.
The committee began in 1869 as the Committee on Education and in 1884 through the mid-1900s it was known as the Education and Labor Committee. In 1999, the committee officially became the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The committee is composed of three subcommittees, which have a broad jurisdiction over our country's health care, education, employment and retirement policies. The HELP Committee jurisdiction encompasses most of the agencies, institutes, and programs of the Department of Health and Human Services; has primary jurisdiction over private retirement plans and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and over railroad retirement; and most federal labor and employment laws. The committee is also committed to ensuring our country’s workforce is prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century through a lifetime of learning for our citizens.