A Two Week Reprieve

March 3, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Yesterday, after passing the Senate by a vote of 91-9, President Obama signed into law a two-week extension of the current Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown and give congressional leaders more time to work out an agreement on the level of spending cuts for the final six months of FY 2011.  The two-week extension contains $4 billion in cuts, although none are from the International Affairs Budget.  Senate Democrats believe the House-passed CR (H.R. 1), which includes a 19% cut to the International Affairs Budget, cuts discretionary spending too deeply.  The President has called for direct negotiations.  White House Chief of Staff William Daley and OMB Director Jack Lew met with House Democrats yesterday, and Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders of both parties are scheduled to meet at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Clinton, Kerry decry House spending cuts (Erik Wasson, the Hill)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Wednesday decried House GOP cuts to the foreign affairs budget passed as part of a seven-month spending bill last month.

Women CEOs in US Speak out for Women’s Health and Rights Globally (YubaNet)

Approximately 40 women who lead development, health, and human rights organizations sent a letter to Congress today, urging senators to keep the United States’ commitments to international women’s health and rights amidst the current scrutiny of the foreign assistance budget.

Smart Power

Foreign aid: The right choice (Michael Gabaudan, POLITICO)

America has a choice to make. As the Senate begins debate on the budget for the remainder of fiscal 2011, senators will have to decide what this country’s international priorities are. Throughout U.S. history, successive Republican and Democratic administrations and Congress have understood that foreign humanitarian assistance is vital to safeguarding both U.S. interests and our national ideals.

Peace Corps: A Program for the 21st Century (Kevin F. F. Quigley, the Huffington Post)

If the president proposed a program today that was cost-effective, inspired public service, trained Americans for 21st century jobs, strengthened our interests abroad, countered anti-American propaganda and had bipartisan support, we would consider it miraculous.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Top Foreign Relations Republican Sen. Richard Lugar Wants State Department to Justify Budget (Kirit Radia, ABC News)

In a press release he “cautioned the State Department that all requested spending, at this time of economic and fiscal hardship in America, will have to pass the acid test of whether foreign assistance programs contribute to national security and economic development.” But now Lugar is a top target of Tea Party activists in Indiana. He is running for reelection in 2012 and is already facing a tough primary challenge  from Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdouck.

Four pinocchios for the American public on the budget (Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post)

The American public appears to be clamoring for a discussion about the size and scope of the federal government. But how can Washington have a serious debate when most Americans are ignorant of what is in the budget?

Poll: Americans confused by budget (Jennifer Epstein, Politico)

Among likely voters surveyed late last month by the Tarrance Group, “[t]here are widespread misperceptions about the state of the federal budget,” the Republican pollsters concluded. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said they believe the federal government spends more on defense and foreign aid than it does on Medicare and Social Security. In fiscal 2010, spending for those two social programs totaled more than $1.1 trillion, while the Pentagon’s budget was about $660 billion and the State Department’s total spending was just under $52 billion.

Obama’s foreign policy pragmatism: Cautious or indecisive? (Nino Saviano, the Hill)
If one is forced to describe Obama’s foreign policy approach with one simple word, ‘cautious’ would be the best choice. Caution – in the Administration’s own statements – has helped define every response by President Obama to any sudden political development around the world, from the Korean Peninsula to North Africa.

Kerry calls for US aid after Arab revolts (Theo Emery, the Boston Globe)

Senator John F. Kerry called for a new financial aid package yesterday to encourage democracy and stabilize economies of nations that have thrown off autocratic governments in the Middle East and North Africa.