“There Is No Better Value”

February 17, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

As talk of devastating cuts to the International Affairs Budget continues to rage on the floor of the House, critical voices are speaking out, making clear that International Affairs programs are essential to our national security. Sophomore Congressmen Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) authored a bipartisan piece for Politico, writing that “standing up for smart power is the right approach to our foreign policy — no matter what your political affiliation.” In addition, Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) wrote in the Hill that in “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”  and former aide to President Bush Michael Gerson  made a strong case on NPR this morning. We expect the House to vote on the International Affairs Budget for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011 this evening, before they recess for the Presidents’ Day holiday.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

GOP’s Proposed Cuts To Africa Aid Criticized (Steve Inskeep, NPR)

President Obama and Congress have been debating how to shape this year’s budget. Among the cuts House Republicans are proposing is a reduction in the amount of aid the U.S. gives to Africa. Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, talks to Steve Inskeep about why he is critical of the GOP’s proposal.

Smart Power

House budget bill’s deep cuts in humanitarian aid criticized (Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post)

U.S. officials and nonprofit groups are expressing alarm about the deep reductions in humanitarian assistance in the House budget bill racing through Congress, warning that it could leave millions of poor people hungry and put refugees in jeopardy in places such as Iraq and Pakistan.

House’s Budget Guts International Aid (Rick Cohen, The Nonprofit Quarterly)

One area of huge cuts would be in the nation’s foreign aid programs. The proposed FY2011 budget cuts international food aid programs by half. Aid for refugees, which rose to $1.7 billion according to Republicans (only $1.3 billion according to State Department officials) would be rolled back to $1 billion, the FY2008 level, amounting to a cut of 40 percent.

Reading the Congressional Record So You Don’t Have To…And Arriving at Surprising Conclusions (Connie Veillette, CGD)

The House of Representatives began debate this week on the continuing resolution (H.R. 1) to fund the remainder of fiscal year 2011.  The bill recommends deep cuts in development accounts, indicating that some in Congress do not agree with the White House that foreign operations should be considered a component of security-related funding.

Cuts That Kill (Allen Moore, the Will and the Wallet)

The initial battle lines over budget-cutting have been drawn. The President has produced what he considers an austere plan for next year’s budget (FY12). The Republican reaction is “too little; too late,” even as House Republicans focus on reducing spending for the remaining seven months of this year (FY11).

Politics/Foreign Policy

Ron Paul seeks vote to end foreign aid to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Pakistan (Josh Rogin, the Cable)

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), have not been shy about their desire to end all U.S. foreign aid. This week, the elder member of the Paul family is seeking a full House vote on an amendment that would cut $6 billion of U.S. aid to a host of Middle East countries.

Can Clinton remake U.S. diplomacy? (Elise Labott, CNN)

Early on a Sunday morning in late January, Hillary Clinton walked into the State Department. The secretary of state had already spent most of Saturday on the phone with the White House about the unraveling situation in Egypt. Now, after endless discussions, she was ready to be the face of the administration on the five network Sunday talk shows.

House puts spending-cut knife to Pentagon (Richard Cowan, Reuters)

Republicans pressed ahead on Wednesday with legislation to immediately slice more than $61 billion from domestic spending but found their budget-cutting unity shaken in a House of Representatives vote to kill a big weapons project.

In a First, State Department Holds Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society (Ma. Rizza Leonzon, DEVEX)

The U.S. State Department launched Feb. 16 a strategic dialogue with civil society to help promote democracy and good governance worldwide. This marks the first time the department held talks with any group other than a government, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.