What Congress is Saying About the Future of U.S. International Affairs Programs

March 15, 2016 By Elizabeth Holtan

Congress is often accused of becoming more and more divided, and that partisanship is worse than ever (check out Brookings’ interactive graphic of Members’ historical voting patterns).

However, the International Affairs Budget — and U.S. global development programs — continue to enjoy broad support from both sides of the aisle. A couple recent examples: the recently-signed Electrify Africa Act, co-sponsored by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Senator Bob Casey’s Global Food Security Act, which has a host of both Republican and Democrat co-sponsors.

There’s also the bipartisan support for the overall International Affairs Budget, which funds everything from our U.S. embassies to American humanitarian workers, disaster response, and our HIV and AIDS relief programs. As the FY2017 federal budget process moves forward, we’ve been tracking what’s being said in the House and Senate hearings about the future of our nation’s international affairs programs.

Secretary John Kerry
Secretary of State“One penny on the dollar is everything we do with respect to diplomatic security, development security, relationship security, all the things we do with embassies, AID, everything. I would suggest, very respectfully, to members of this Committee, it is a minimum price for the leadership that we offer to the world.” (February 25, 2016)
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)
Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee “The reason the State Department exists, really, and the reason that we fund it is to do everything we can through diplomacy to solve the many problems that exist around the world, and do everything we can to keep our men and women in uniform from being utilized more than they are today.” (February 23, 2016)
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee “I’m very concerned about the OCO funding vs the baseline funding… The budget provides for $50.1 billion in allocation for foreign assistance but only $35.2 billion is in baseline funding, as this chart points out….The reality of our world is that this budget provides our national security and it needs to be grounded in sustainable and ongoing, for the safety of our nation, and I’m concerned that by not having the baseline high enough, we run the risk in the future… [W]e need to make it clear that on national security, soft power, that we’re committed not only to this year, but a sustained growth of America’s presence globally. And I would hope that we would get a larger sum in the baseline.” (February 23, 2016)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Chairman, Senate Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee“We’ve had a 12% cut since 2010. The world has not justified us spending less in terms of engaging the world. Sequestration relief is much appreciated but we need to get this behind us… If you don’t want to bomb everybody and you don’t want to be in a constant state of war, you need tools in the tool box.” (February 24, 2016)
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Vice Chairwoman, Senate Appropriations Committee “As I review the President’s budget, it once again shows that the defense of our country lies not only in the Department of Defense, but others that exercise other levers of power and presence that help advocate the values and security needs of our country.” (February 24, 2016)
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations State Department, USAID Management Subcommittee “I’m a big believer in this budget – you’ve got organizations like the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition that make the case for the importance of it, because we do so much good in this area…” (March 1, 2016)
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee“I have been caught – as has every Senator – with people who think that if you just repeal the foreign assistance budget, you can balance the budget [and] you never have any problems in this country and our debt goes away. It’s probably the best buy we got in the entire budget, for peace and security… it’s a great return on the dollar, a tremendous return on the dollar.” (March 1, 2016)
Representative Kay Granger (R-TX)
Chairwoman, House Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee “[Secretary Kerry,] you recently noted that while funding for international programs represents just 1% of the total federal budget, it may well define the majority of the history written about our era… The United States continues to show leadership in areas such as reducing poverty, fighting the AIDS virus, and stopping preventable deaths of mothers and children.” (February 24, 2016)
Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY)
Chairman, House Appropriations Committee ”The Chairwoman and Ranking Member have rightly noted that the importance of United States leadership in global affairs is at an all-time high. [Secretary Kerry], as our nation’s chief diplomat, your responsibility to promote American interests abroad, to pursue peace in regions wrought by hundreds of years of historical and cultural strife, to ensure the safety of our citizens living here and abroad – is of paramount importance.” (February 24, 2016)
Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee “We need to invest in diplomacy, development, and foreign assistance in order to tackle all of these challenges. We need to make the case that modest investments today – just over 1% of the federal budget – will pay back huge dividends for our security and prosperity tomorrow.” (February 25, 2016)
Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee “Mr. Secretary, I share your concern that much of the Department’s core programs are currently funded through Oversees Contingency Operations or OCO, which inaccurately reflects our commitment to key partners, international organizations, and humanitarian operations. Diplomacy and development are critical components of our national security. Diplomatic failure increases the risk of conflict or failed states and makes populations more vulnerable to radicalization. Congress must find a more responsible budgeting method to provide the resources to meet these challenges today, tomorrow, and into the future.” (February 24, 2016)
Representative Ed Royce (R-CA)
Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee“From countering the threat of ISIS to combating pandemic diseases, foreign assistance can advance our national security at a modest price. It is important to ensure that all of these investments though – no matter their size – are efficient and effective.” (March 15, 2016)
Representative David Cicilline (D-RI)
Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee“There are tremendous challenges, you’ve outlined them in your testimony and the budget. The International Affairs Budget, which funds programs designed to confront these challenges continues to shrink. Since FY2010, the overall funding for the International Affairs Budget – that’s the base budget plus OCO – has been reduced 12%.” (February 25, 2016)