June 17, 2011
The House this week debated the FY12 Agriculture spending bill, which passed late yesterday by a vote of 217-203, with all Democrats and 19 Republicans voting against it. The Agriculture appropriations bill contains two accounts that are part of the International Affairs Budget: the P.L. 480/Food for Peace program and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program. The bill cuts the P.L. 480/Food for Peace account by 30.5% from FY11 levels while the McGovern-Dole program is cut 9.5% from FY11 levels. Overall, the Agriculture appropriations bill provides a total of $17.3 billion in discretionary funding — 13% below FY11 levels and 23% below the President’s request.
During floor debate on the bill, several Representatives proposed amendments that would have cut the two international food aid programs even further. All of the amendments were defeated on a strongly bipartisan basis:
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, opposed the amendments and said of the Food for Peace program, “It is a program that keeps America engaged around the world and therefore promotes stability around the world. And when you have instability, there is a concern in terms of national security.” Rep. Chaffetz argued for his amendment, stating, “The out-of-control spending in the past puts us in a perilous position where we spend $600 million a day just in interest on our debt…We could do a lot more good in this world if we were to take care of our own financial pocketbooks and we have not yet done that.”
Other statements in opposition to the international food aid cuts included:
2. Biden Talks Continue at Rapid Pace
The pace of the bipartisan budget talks being led by Vice President Biden quickened this week as the group held three meetings, with four more scheduled for next week. Biden announced that the group had finished its initial “scrub” of the budget and found substantial savings, with an eventual goal of reaching $4 trillion in savings over ten years. Still, major differences remain on spending, revenues and entitlements.
Negotiators on both sides want to reach final agreement on a deficit reduction package by early July, to ensure sufficient time to debate and pass it before the government is estimated on Aug. 2 to begin defaulting on its debt obligations. A key part of any agreement will be a $2.5 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, which would avoid the need for additional debt ceiling increases before the 2012 elections.