The House Takes Center Stage

February 16, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Following the President’s FY2012 budget release on Monday, all eyes have turned to Capitol Hill, where the House will be debating spending bills for the remainder of FY 2011 today and tomorrow. This debate has serious implications for the International Affairs Budget, as the current proposal contains a 19% cut to critical International Affairs programs, and additional cutting amendments are expected to be considered on the House floor. The USGLC is monitoring events closely. For the latest news and resources on this debate, please visit our website throughout the day.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Food Security is National Security (By Catherine Bertini & Dan Glickman, Daily Caller)

The benefits of developing agriculture and improving food systems, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, will accrue not just to the millions of hungry people that live in those regions, but also to the United States. In addition to providing a foundation for global stability, improved agricultural systems abroad create markets for American seeds and farm equipment, U.S.-made goods and services, and American influence. Indeed, agricultural advances achieved in the U.S.-supported Green Revolution in East Asia and Latin America have led to economic growth and increased U.S. exports to these countries.

Foreign aid cuts jeopardize U.S. national security (Rep. Steve Rothman, The Hill)

America’s national deficit will burden future generations and hurt the long term well-being of our nation. That is why, as the stewards of our constituents’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars, Congress must always ensure that every cent we spend is absolutely essential. But we can never forget that in meeting Congress’ first priority – keeping America safe – there is no better value than the one percent of the U.S. budget that is spent on foreign aid and diplomacy.

The future of a democratic Egypt (Condoleezza Rice, the Washington Post)

For all his failings, Mubarak maintained a cold peace with Israel, which became a pillar of Egyptian foreign policy. He supported moderate Palestinian leadership and helped keep Hamas at bay. But he could never do so fully because he was afraid of “the street.” Authoritarians don’t know or respect their people, and they fear them. The United States has taken a good deal of public blame from friends who secretly supported our policies – fueling hatred against us while shielding themselves. We cannot determine the foreign policy preferences of Egypt’s next government. But we can influence them through our ties to the military, links to civil society, and a promise of economic assistance and free trade to help improve the lot of the Egyptian people.

Smart Power

A soft power bargain (Micah Zenko and Rebecca R. Friedman, LA Times)

A fully funded foreign aid budget is essential to prevent the political instability and violent conflict that harms American security. On Valentine’s Day, Congress received a gift from President Obama: the federal budget for fiscal year 2012. As its opening shot in what promises to be a long and hard budgetary battle, the White House requested $47 billion for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Although this is a 1% increase overall — with extra money primarily dedicated for preventing and treating HIV/AIDS and malaria — it makes cuts in most other major programs.

Axe Descends on U.S. Overseas Aid (Aprille Muscara, Inter Press Service)

With U.S. President Barack Obama’s release of his Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 foreign affairs budget Monday and a proposal currently in the U.S. House of Representatives for massive cuts in FY 2011 international spending, the fight to sustain U.S. aid abroad is intensifying.Development and foreign policy analysts largely praised the administration’s funding appeal for reflecting conscientious adjustments in this constrained economic environment and for maximising returns by focusing spending on strategic areas such as global health, food security and climate change.

State Budget Splits Off Funds for OCO, Sure to Face Battle in Congress (Sara Sorcher, National Journal)

The Obama administration’s proposed 2012 budget for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development at first glance appears to be relatively in line with past funding levels—the $47 billion proposed for State’s core budget represents a 1 percent increase over 2010 levels. Yet this isn’t the full snapshot. As State steps up its civilian efforts in conflict zones, the department has also requested $8.7 billion for  programs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as part of a separate account.

For the first time, the State Department has requested its money for operations in those countries under separate funding for OCO, or “overseas contingencies operations.” State’s portion of the OCO in the fiscal 2012 budget is $8.7 billion out of the total $126 billion.

House GOP’s Proposed Cuts to Foreign Aid Cause for Concern in Senate (Emily Cadei, CQ)

The plan by House Republicans to slice diplomatic and foreign aid funding for the rest of 2011 is likely to face a significantly more skeptical audience when it reaches the Senate. The GOP proposal is expected to pass the House this week as part of the giant spending bill (HR 1) to cover the rest of fiscal year 2011. But senators on both sides of the aisle expressed misgivings Tuesday about their House colleagues’ decision to categorize the entire State and Foreign Operations budget as non-security spending, as well as the depth of the cuts that resulted.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Obama threatens to veto spending bill (Josh Rogin, the Cable)

President Obama has officially threatened to veto the continuing resolution funding bill now being debated in the House if it contains drastic cuts to national security, but it remains unclear if large cuts in diplomacy and foreign aid programs would be enough to force White House action.

Grilling gets heated in House committee hearing on Egypt and Middle East (Walter Pincus, the Washington Post)

Overall, the hearing should be viewed as a preview of what this panel will be doing for the next two years, headed as it is by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a firm critic of many Obama administration approaches to foreign policy. In her opening remarks, Ros-Lehtinen said, “Engaging the Muslim Brotherhood must not be on the table.”

Congress prepares “Middle East Stability” funding package (Josh Rogin, the Cable)

There’s a raging debate on Capitol Hill surrounding huge cuts to foreign aid funding proposed in the House Republicans’ latest spending bill. But several senators are looking to add a generous foreign aid package for Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and other Middle Eastern countries when the bill comes over from the House.”A [continuing resolution] that had full year funding for the troops plus an Egypt, Israel, and Middle East stability package of full year funding would send the right signal from the United States,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) told The Cable in an exclusive interview.