What’s Next for the Budget?

March 4, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Negotiations between House and Senate leadership and the White House began Thursday with a White House proposal to cut an additional $6.5 billion from current spending levels in addition to the $4 billion cut already contained in the short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) the President signed on Wednesday. The White House has yet to announce the list of cuts.  The House-passed appropriations bill (H.R. 1) contains $59 billion in cuts from current spending, meaning that Democrats and Republicans are still almost $50 billion apart in their respective proposals to curtail spending. There are differing rumors about next steps, but next week the Senate may take up both the White House proposal and H.R. 1.  Neither measure would likely receive filibuster-proof support, showing the need for better compromise. And, yesterday, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner touted the International Affairs Budget before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying: “our investments in institutions like the World Bank are among the most powerful and cost-effective ways we have to promote US interests — our economic interests and our security interests.”

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Who’s In the News

Geithner warns US lawmakers not to slash aid (Agence France Presse)

With Republicans in Congress threatening to cut foreign aid budgets in a determined attack on government spending, Geithner told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee it was a matter of US national interest to keep supporting the World Bank and other multilateral development institutions.

Smart Power

Sens. Lieberman and McCain push for an economic assistance plan for Egypt (John T. Bennett, The Hill)

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Thursday urged the Obama administration to craft a multi-pronged Egyptian assistance package that includes preferential trade status and greater economic aid. The lawmakers warned that a lack of U.S. involvement in building a post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt would set a negative precedent that would undermine Washington’s national security interests.

Foreign aid isn’t foreign. It’s American. (Laurie Garrett, Christian Science Monitor)

We better ourselves and bring pride to the US by feeding the starving, healing the sick, teaching the young, housing the exposed, and supporting democracy. And we help prevent terrorism. Foreign aid may be a convenient political target, but the truth is that our overseas aid is effective, bipartisan, and reflects the very best of America. Never has its need – or its return on investment – been greater.

Save America’s foreign policy budget (Christian Science Monitor editorial)

And in hot wars, such as Afghanistan and before that, Iraq, the US military has come to realize how much it needs American civilian-side expertise and aid to win over populations. There’s not a bigger supporter for State Department funding in Washington than Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The US needs to exercise both “hard” and “soft” power, he argues.

Politics/Foreign Policy

UN: Food prices hit record high in February (Alessandra Rizzo, AP)

Skyrocketing food prices have been among the triggers for protests in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, and raised fears of a repeat of the food price crises in 2007 and 2008. “Unexpected oil price spikes could further exacerbate an already precarious situation in food markets,” said David Hallam, director of FAO’s trade and market division. “This adds even more uncertainty concerning the price outlook just as plantings for crops in some of the major growing regions are about to start.”

New faces at today’s White House Af-Pak meeting (Josh Rogin, The Cable blog)

Past White House Af-Pak meetings have included a wide range of national security officials. Returning officials in the room included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, counterterrorism advisor John Brennan, Deputy NSA Denis McDonough, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, CIA Director Leon Panetta, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman James Cartwright, Afghanistan Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Pakistan Ambassador Cameron Munter (via video conference), Deputy NSA Tony Blinken, CENTCOM Commander Gen. James Mattis, Commander, ISAF Commander Gen. David Petraeus, (via video conference), and NSC Coordinator for Af-Pak Doug Lute.