Today’s Headlines

July 22, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

After two full days of debate, the House Foreign Affairs Committee completed its markup Thursday of the FY2012 State Department-Foreign Relations Authorization Act and passed the bill 23-20 with major impacts on the International Affairs Budget.  Among the many contentious amendments offered during the debate, an amendment by Representative Jeff Duncan (R-SC) revoking economic assistance to countries that oppose the US in the UN more than half the time passed 22-18.  Amendments to restore funding to the East-West Center, as well as attempts to strike language reinstating the Global Gag Rule, were rejected by the committee.  A final version of the text will be posted here. The bill will not be taken up by the full House until sometime in September, at the earliest.  Next week Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Kerry will introduce an alternative State Department-Foreign Relations Authorization bill.

Must Reads

Smart Power

Fighting a 50 percent solution in Afghanistan (Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Foreign Policy)

Speaking in Chennai on Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to reassure a worried India that the United States has no plan to cut and run when it comes to Afghanistan … That American commitment, Clinton said, extends to the country’s women. “Any potential for peace will be subverted if women and ethnic minorities are marginalized or silenced,” Clinton said… At a Senate hearing the day after President Obama’s June speech announcing the beginning of America’s troop drawdown in Afghanistan, Clinton argued that “including women and civil society” in the peace process “is not just the right thing to do; it is the smart and strategic thing to do as well.”

Sharing Patents to Wipe Out AIDS (Tina Rosenberg, New York Times Blogs)

The patent pool is designed to solve several important problems.  One is that poor countries — the countries where medicine is most desperately needed — usually have to wait a long time for affordable medicines. Under ordinary circumstances, medicines are not available in generic form until 20-year patents expire. But the patent pool can make drugs them available in generic form right away.

Politics/Foreign Policy

House Panel Backs Fiscal 2012 State Department Authorization Measure (Anne Kim, CQ)

A House panel advanced a State Department authorization measure Thursday night that would put limits on U.S. aid to Pakistan, after lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected a GOP effort to impose even stronger restrictions. The underlying measure (HR 2583) would block assistance to Pakistan unless the government shows it is making progress in pursuing terrorist networks on its soil and in investigating how al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden was able to live in the country undetected for years.

The fiscal 2012 foreign policy authorization would block security assistance to Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Yemen unless they also meet certain conditions related to combating terrorism. It would allow the president to waive the prohibition if it serves a vital U.S. national security interest.

House moves to restrict U.S. foreign aid (Mary Beth Sheriden, Washington Post)
With the bill, the House Foreign Affairs Committee sought to rein in some of President Obama’s policies and to slice $6.4 billion from his $51 billion request for 2012 for the State Department and foreign operations. Rep. Howard L. Berman (Calif)., the committee’s senior Democrat, blasted the bill as having a “Fortress America” tone, with such measures as reimposing a cap on funds for U.N. peacekeeping forces.  Berman said the legislation reflected the decline of a “bipartisan center” that existed in the House in the past, in which “some of the more conservative people, they wouldn’t have thought of saying, ‘We should pull out of the OAS.’ ”

Why the U.S. Needs to Cut the Deficit (Christopher Alessi and Fred Bergsten, Council on Foreign Relations)

The longer we fail to address the budget deficit, the more and continuing pressure there will be on the defense budget, the foreign aid budget–the whole range of foreign affairs expenditures. In fact, one key reason we need to get a comprehensive, coherent, and effective budget program in place is so that we can then have some certainty about the foreign affairs and national security component of the budget going forward. If it’s constantly under pressure–you don’t know what might prevail, what might be cut–it’s going to undermine the rational implementation of foreign policy.

Iraq probably will miss deadline on U.S. troop decision, officials say (Ed O’Keefe and Aziz Alwan, Washington Post)

Iraq’s political leaders appear set to miss a deadline this weekend for deciding whether to ask U.S. military forces to stay beyond December, according to Iraqi and American officials familiar with negotiations. With leaders still at an impasse, and despite Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s remark last week that Iraqi leaders should “dammit, make a decision,” most U.S. officials say they do not anticipate receiving a formal request from the Iraqis until September, meaning that the roughly 46,000 U.S. troops in Iraq remain on course to withdraw by Dec. 31.