CARE is ready to engage its network of supporters to defend the U.S. foreign aid budget in the coming months during congressional negotiations to avoid sequestration, the severe cross-government cuts that would go into effect Jan. 2 if lawmakers don’t find a debt-cutting compromise.
That’s what Katie Porter, CARE USA’s deputy director of government relations, told Devex the day after President Barack Obama’s re-election. Porter has high hopes for the next administration, but she’s also realistic.
“We all hope they’ll continue to be bold, maybe even bolder,” she says, but Congress remains divided and “it’s going to be hard to know how to prioritize without knowing what the budget’s going to look like” and how cooperative the newly elected lawmakers will be once their term starts in January.
We asked Porter how this year’s hotly contested elections will affect U.S. development aid.
Is Obama’s re-election good for development cooperation?
I think the outcome is a good one for foreign assistance. This administration has already demonstrated its support for it. We’re focused, most acutely, moving forward, on that the administration defend a robust foreign assistance budget. There’s certainly a budget to balance but you’re not going to do it through foreign assistance — and we’ve already seen a whole lot of cuts to this account over the past few years. So, we hope that those cuts are going to be found elsewhere and that the president can defend what is roughly 1 percent of the federal budget. I think CARE and our partners in the field can attest that those are dollars well-spent.
What are your priorities for the rest of the year?
In this congressional “lame duck” session, we’re going to be busy. Congress will have to deal with sequestration, and I think we’ll argue exactly the same point, that foreign assistance has already weathered substantial cuts — I think roughly 14 or 15 percent over the last couple years. We need the administration and Congress to look for cuts in other programs that would actually make a difference. If what they are trying to accomplish is balancing the budget, you’re just not going to find it in a budget that’s the size of 1 percent of the total pot.
Can you see any potential cuts in the current foreign aid budget?
We’re not experts in the federal budget, we’re experts in development assistance. In CARE’s position, our expertise runs the gamut, from water and sanitation to food security to global health to agriculture or gender programming. We can say unequivocally that investments in foreign assistance are smart investments, that these are dollars well-spent. We are not in a position to tell Congress how to do its job. Just to reassure the Congress and the administration and the public that this is a very small investment and that it’s a very smart investment.
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