September 22, 2012

International Affairs Budget Update, 9-22-12

In a strongly bipartisan vote, the Senate late last night rejected 10-81 a measure offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) that would have cut U.S. foreign assistance to Pakistan, Egypt and Libya and any country that fails to secure American embassies.  The vote occurred as the Senate worked to pass the FY13 Continuing Resolution (CR) and adjourn until the week of Nov. 16 after the election.  The CR, which we reported on last week, passed 62-30.

Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), James Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) joined Senator Paul in supporting the amendment. However, a number of Senators who voted in favor of Senator Paul’s 2011 amendment to cut $7 billion from the International Affairs Budget voted against the amendment this year, including:

  • Senator John Barrasso (R-WY);
  • Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK);
  • Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY);
  • Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX);
  • Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI);
  • Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE);
  • Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL);
  • Senator John Thune (R-SD); and
  • Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS).

Nine Senators did not vote, including Senators John Boozman (R-AR); Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Richard Burr (R-NC); Dean Heller (R-NV); Jim Inhofe (R-OK); Mark Kirk (R-IL); Patty Murray (D-WA); Marco Rubio (R-FL); and David Vitter (R-LA).

Senator Paul has been a longtime opponent of all U.S. foreign assistance – and this sweeping measure is clearly part of the Senator’s broader effort to undermine support for these programs.

Senators Paul, DeMint, and Lee were the only Senators who spoke in favor of the amendment.  Senator Paul’s statements were sweeping and unabashed in their denunciation of foreign assistance.  Some of his statements included:

  • “I’m going to tell you the story today of a love affair.  It’s a story that is a steamy one.  It’s a story that of illicit behavior, of treachery, and of gluttony.  It’s a story that involves intrigue and deception.  It’s a story of unintended consequences, and it’s a story of anger and violence.  It is the story of American foreign aid;”
  • “[Foreign aid advocates] argue eliminating foreign aid won’t balance the budget. No, it won’t, but it’s a start. And you have to start somewhere. And why not start with something that’s counterproductive?”
  • “The Arab Spring is a direct consequence of us sending foreign aid and lavishing it on people who don’t respect the freedom of their constituents, who don’t allow constitutional freedoms.”

Senators DeMint and Lee acknowledged flaws in the language of the Paul amendment, but supported the measure as part of a wider discussion about foreign aid, saying:

  • Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Americans are crying out for us to stop giving hard-earned tax dollars away to countries that aren’t our friends.  I agree.  We need to review all our foreign aid and make any aid conditional on the protection of Americans and our interest. […] The bill will not pass, but the other side can’t hide from this issue forever.  Senator Paul will be back and I will be back with him and we will get the votes that the American people are demanding.”
  • Senator Mike Lee (R-UT): “We have an obligation to the American people to at least review this aid and inspect every single dollar we send abroad to ensure the billions of dollars we send to Pakistan, to Egypt, and to Libya are well spent.  I support this amendment if for no other reason than to begin the debate on the merit of sending billions of American dollars abroad each and every year.”

The voices in opposition to the amendment were strong and bipartisan, including:

  • Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ranking Member of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee: “Senator Paul is proposing disengagement in three of the most volatile areas of the Middle East at a time when it means the most, and the way he has written this amendment should make everyone pause and evaluate how you want to vote.”
  • Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, read on the Senate floor a letter signed by USGLC’s National Security Advisory Council Co-Chairs Admiral Jim Loy (Ret.) and General Mike Hagee (Ret.), saying, “I think [these military leaders’] views are very important given the vast experience of so many of them on this list – this is 110 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals – I think we should at least pay close attention to their views. They’ve earned it.  They have earned our respect for their views.”
  • Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “We’ve heard today from 110 retired generals and admirals that suspension of U.S. aid is not in America’s interests and that assistance is a critical component of America’s national security strategy. […] I think we need to remember that our aid plays a critical role in supporting our interests and our values.  The Paul amendment would make us less secure and it is in no one’s interest.”
  • Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “I think all of us know that our withdrawal from the Middle East will leave us in a place, in a world that is vastly unsafe for our citizens, for people around the world.  And, while I know that our engagement needs to continue and evolve, I know that this amendment is not the way to make that happen.  I strongly oppose it.”
  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee: “This is no way to honor the patriotism and sacrifice of Ambassador Stevens and the others who lost their lives. […] These are fledgling democracies whose people have been ruled and brutalized by corrupt dictators for decades.  They are struggling to draft new constitutions, elect parliaments, reform their police, restructure their stagnant economies, and manage competing ethnic, religious and political factions, some of which have been in conflict with each other for centuries.”
  • Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:While we have a right to be angry [about recent events in the Middle East], we should still be smart about our foreign policy.”
  • Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee: “In spite of all that’s happened in the last ten days – and all of us still grieve for the loss of four very brave Americans who put their life in harm’s way as civilians to advocate what’s in the best interest of our country – but I would assure you if Ambassador Stevens was here today he’d say the direction of Senator Paul’s amendment is the wrong direction in which to go.”

Other Senators who spoke in opposition to the amendment included Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA); Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); Dan Coats (R-IN); Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); and John Hoeven (R-ND).