Aid Community Reacts to Latest House Votes on US Foreign Assistance

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Chairman Dan Glickman, and Rep. Nita Lowey. Photos by: U.S. Embassy | U.S. Department of Agriculture | Azi Paybarah

Democratic leaders and members of the development community in the United States have aired their displeasure over the approval of consecutive bills that seek to slash billions of dollars in State and foreign operations spending for fiscal 2012.

On Wednesday (July 27), the House Appropriations subcommittee on State, foreign operations and related programs passed a fiscal 2012 appropriations bill proposing $47.2 billion for foreign aid, or 20 percent less than the current level. The vote came hardly a week after the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved an authorization bill that calls for new restrictions to providing aid to certain countries and limits to bilateral economic assistance and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s operational expenses, on top of an overall cut of $6.4 billion to the $51 billion request by U.S. President Barack Obama for the foreign affairs budget.

These Republican-crafted bills have little chance of passing the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. Already, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a bill that aims to serve “as a counterpoint to what was done in the House last week,” one committee aide told Josh Rogin of “The Cable” blog. Kerry’s bill would essentially fund the White House’s request for the State Department and USAID’s operations.

>> House Panel Unveils 2012 State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill

>> 2012 Foreign Spending Bill Seen as Undermining US National Security Interests

Meanwhile, here are some of the reactions to the latest congressional decisions on the U.S. foreign aid spending:

[The bill] “would be debilitating to my efforts to carry out a considered foreign policy and diplomacy, and to use foreign assistance strategically to that end.” - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter sent July 26 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was obtained by The Washington Post

“This legislation would be a step back from U.S. leadership and substantially weaken the United States’ efforts overseas by decreasing economic opportunity, stability and access to critical services for millions of the world’s poorest people.” - Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on State, foreign operations and related programs, as quoted by The Associated Press

“Such cuts are counterproductive, short-sighted and portray the United States as a nation that doesn’t care about the plight of the world’s poorest people.” - Samuel A. Worthington, president of InterAction, an umbrella group of 200 U.S.-based development NGOs, in a statement sent to Devex

“While everyone agrees we need to get our fiscal house in order, we must protect our national and economic security in the process. As the Chamber of Commerce often points out, 95% of the world consumers live outside of the U.S. and our small investment in the International Affairs Budget is essential to growing our economy here at home.” - Dan Glickman, chairman of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a network of 400 foreign policy experts and business, faith-based, academic and community leaders supporting “a smart power approach of elevating diplomacy and development alongside defense in order to build a better, safer world”

“The bill passed today by the House State Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee reads like a bad sequel to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act that passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week on a party line vote. Not only does it represent a major retreat from our obligations, it comes at a time when the United Nations is asked to tackle the most critical problems facing the world today.” - Peter Yeo, executive director of Better World Campaign

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About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.