A group of conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives is circulating a proposal to reduce the national deficit that would eliminate the U.S. Agency for International Development, extend a pay freeze on federal employee salaries and limit hiring among federal agencies.
The proposal has little chance to become law because it would have to be approved not just by the House, which is controlled by the Republican Party, but also by the Senate, which is led by Democrats and has shown more willingness to support President Barack Obama’s plans to elevate international development as a central pillar of U.S. foreign affairs. If it did become law, however, the Republican proposal would throw a wrench into the administration’s plans to turn USAID into the world’s premier aid agency and a modern enterprise that relies more on in-house capacity than external consultants and contractors.
The proposal by the Republican Study Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and includes more than 170 House Republicans, would cut funding for USAID, claiming that this could save U.S. taxpayers up to USD1.39 billion annually.
The committee also proposes to cut funding for the Trade and Development Agency and eliminate U.S. financial assistance to Egypt, the Ireland stabilization fund, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The proposal, which is being led by Jordan and RSC Budget and Spending Task Force Chairman Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), is similar to the budget plan the RSC released last May under then-chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), and a proposal the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington-based think tank, released after the congressional midterm elections in November.
The May memo proposed eliminating USAID and U.S. economic assistance to Ireland and Egypt, while the Heritage Foundation sought the elimination of the Trade and Development Agency, which has traditionally enjoyed Republican support.
The newly released RSC proposal would require the president to submit a blueprint for how to cut funding for the above programs and organizations within six months.
Hiring limits and pay freeze extension
The proposal, if enacted, would also put a damper on efforts by the State Department and other government agencies to strengthen in-house capacity, which is among the recommendations included in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the State Department’s report on the future of U.S. foreign affairs.
A federal agency would only be able to hire new full-time staff if its employment base was less than 85 percent of what it was at the end of the last fiscal year, meaning on Sept. 30, 2010.
The State Department and USAID, though its Development Leadership Initiative, have been adding hundreds of staff over the past few years, so this provision alone would likely end all hiring.
The proposal stipulates that, if signed into law, federal agencies only replace up to half of the staff positions left vacant because of resignation, removal, retirement or death - another way to slowly reduce the federal workforce.
The RSC also wants to extend by three years an ongoing freeze of federal employees’ salaries that was to end next year.
Overall, the RSC proposal seeks a total savings of USD2.5 trillion over 10 years. Sen. Jim DeMint (R- S.C.) is expected to introduce a Senate version of the reform proposal, according to Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor welcomed the proposal and challenged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the Senate Democrats to put forward their own plan to cut spending.
“I applaud the Republican Study Committee for proposing cuts in federal spending,” Cantor said in a statement, “and I look forward to the discussion on reducing spending that our country so desperately needs to have.”