International Affairs Budget Post-Election

November 4, 2010 By Madeleine Pryor

In the wake of Tuesday’s elections, there is still one issue both Democrats and Republicans support, and that’s the small but critical spending in the International Affairs Budget. While we recognize the budget realities, it is important to support Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and our military leaders who have continued to call for greater investments in the civilian side of our global engagement tools. We look forward to working with long-time friends, new members of Congress, including the new House leadership, to build on the strong bipartisan support for the International Affairs Budget’s cost-effective programs, which are critical to building a better, safer world.

Who’s In the News

USGLC welcomes new co-president (Mj Lee and Zeeshan Aleem – Politico)

The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition has named George Rupp, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, co-president of the USGLC board of directors. Joining Bill Lane, Caterpillar’s Washington director, Rupp will help the coalition advocate for a robust U.S. international affairs budget and for other effective tools of development and diplomacy. “Pairing George’s knowledge of the humanitarian aid and development community with Bill Lane’s expertise in the business world makes for a powerful team,” said coalition Chairman George Ingram. Rupp has previously been president of Columbia and Rice universities and dean of the Harvard Divinity School.

Smart Power

New Congress, New World View? (Nathan Hodge – Wall Street Journal)

Foreign policy may not have been a key issue during the midterm election campaign, but Washington’s engagement with the world may change with the arrival of a new Congress. The president is the most powerful player in foreign policy, but Congress plays its role through the appropriations process and key oversight functions. The Nov. 2 vote promises to dramatically reshape several committees where legislators wield considerable influence over military priorities and spending, as well as over the international affairs budget. Perhaps the most dramatic changes are expected in the House Armed Services Committee, currently chaired by Rep. Ike Skelton (D., Mo.). Rep. Skelton, a hawkish Democrat, lost a tight race to Republican Vicky Hartzler, a former state legislator. But the anti-incumbent wave also swept away several other key Democrats known for staunch support of defense priorities.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Granger seeking chairmanship of State and foreign ops subcommittee (Josh Rogin – Foreign Policy)

Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger will seek the chairmanship of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, according to her spokesman, ending rumors that she would forgo the post in favor of some other position. Although no decisions have been made, until last night Granger was the ranking Republican on the panel and she is the clear frontrunner for the job. She would succeed current chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), who has served as chairwoman since 2006. “Congresswoman Granger is interested in continuing on as chair of the state and foreign operations appropriations subcommittee,” Matt Leffingwell, her press secretary, told The Cable Wednesday. When power switches in Congress, a complicated game of musical chairs begins as senior members jockey for committee and subcommittee chairs. Just being the highest-ranking minority member on a panel doesn’t mean one automatically takes over the chairmanship.

Can Progressives and Tea Partiers Find Love Across the Aisle? (John Norris – Foreign Policy)

With the first shock waves of Tuesday’s election reverberating across Washington and the country, armchair pundits are taking it as gospel that the results will inevitably mean gridlock as progressives and newly elected Tea Partiers lock horns in mortal combat. This may be true on a number of issues, but there might also be several surprising areas of convergence, including on some aspects of foreign-policy. For many people, the Tea Party’s foreign policy agenda has been largely a cipher. As Kate Zernike noted, “Tea Partiers say they want to focus on economic conservatism, meaning that they don’t spend a lot of time talking about other topics — foreign policy, or social issues like gay marriage and abortion.” But it is not so difficult to predict where the Tea Party impulse lies on a number of issues.

Election outcome may complicate Obama’s foreign policy (Mary Beth Sheridan and Greg Jaffe – Washington Post)

The midterm elections focused almost exclusively on domestic issues. But Tuesday’s outcome may complicate President Obama‘s foreign-policy goals, with Republicans using their new strength to cut aid to other countries and question the president’s policies toward countries such as Syria, Venezuela and Israel, officials and analysts said. The Republican capture of the House means that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), a feisty Cuban American conservative, will probably take command of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, replacing Howard L. Berman (D-Calif), who had been largely sympathetic to Obama’s agenda. Ros-Lehtinen is expected to “bring additional scrutiny to some issues that wasn’t taking place before,” said one GOP congressional aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the congresswoman has not yet been formally appointed.

Around the world, concern over the global impact of U.S. elections (Keith Richburg and Will Englund – Washington Post)

There were questions in world capitals over whether Obama would be too politically weakened at home to pursue major initiatives abroad, or whether, like some of his predecessors in domestic difficulty, he would turn his attention more to foreign policy, where presidents still have more freedom to act. “At the end of the day, a weak president means a weak United States,” said Oren Nahar, foreign news editor at Israel Radio, speaking during a radio discussion of the election results. He speculated that the Democratic defeat would make it more difficult for Obama to take bold steps abroad, such as striking Iran over its nuclear capability. Much as President Bill Clinton took solace abroad after the Democratic defeat in the 1994 midterms, so does Obama embark this week on a lengthy trip to Asia, where he will be able to put aside temporarily the political setback at home for a turn on the global stage, where he remains widely admired.

New Congress won’t lead to `fortress America’ (Andres Oppenheimer – Miami Herald)

The Republican landslide in Tuesday’s mid-term elections is likely to lead to across-the-board budget cuts that will affect U.S. programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, and result in tougher congressional anti-immigration stands. That’s not going to resonate well in most of the region. But on the positive side, it is likely to lead to congressional approval of long-stalled U.S. free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. Let’s examine these and other issues: Foreign aid: Judging from what I hear from well-placed congressional sources, the most immediate regional impact of the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives — and the party’s expanded presence in the Democratic-held Senate — will be a strong push to cut foreign aid, economic and anti-drug programs.

The US cannot save Afghanistan (Andrew Mwenda – The Independent)

Now the US and her allies have also been involved in trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people by financing economic reconstruction of the country and to deliver humanitarian assistance. USAID alone has spent over $5.4 billion on development aid. Indeed, Afghanistan ($3.5 billion every year) is only second to Iraq ($9.5 billion per year) in receiving development aid. Compare this with Uganda, with 32 million people; we have received about $ 23 billion in aid and debt relief over the last 25 years. We think this is a lot of money and that our government is incompetent. Yet with only 50,000 soldiers and a budget of US$ 250m per year, Yoweri Museveni has been able to contain insurgents and ensure security in most of the country while at the same time sustain economic growth for 22 years.

Nets, AP call DeMint, Leahy (Ron Kampeas – JTA)

The Networks and the Associated Press have also called it for incumbents Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Easy calls. Both men, it can be said, have a history of making Jewish organizational leaders nervous. DeMint has emerged as the Tea Partier’s Tea Partier, and has been unswerving in his pledge to stop spending across the board. Leahy, as chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations committee in 2007 contemplated across the board foreign assistance cuts — meaning, israel would have been included. (It didn’t happen.) Leahy also had a fun exchange with Elena Kagan during her Supremes confirmation hearings — the Chinese Restaurant affair.