The debt law signed Aug. 2 by U.S. President Barack Obama allowed the government to avert a financial collapse, but the fight to identify savings in the federal budget, including on international affairs and foreign aid, is far from over.
The law raises the U.S.’s borrowing limit but also requires $2.4 trillion in spending cuts and imposes strict spending caps. It puts a $684 million spending cap for fiscal 2012 on the so-called “security category,” which includes discretionary appropriations for the 150 account covering the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, Millennium Challenge Corp. and other international programs.
The debt law also sets up a temporary bipartisan committee that will find an additional $1.2 trillion worth of savings over 10 years in various areas of government, including diplomacy, defense and development. The 12-member committee, dubbed the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, has until Thanksgiving to identify these savings and present its proposal to Congress.
Senate and House leaders recently announced the composition of the committee: a mix of freshman legislators and high-ranking members of both parties. The lineup notably includes a key proponent of a robust foreign affairs and aid budget as well as two Republican legislators said to be “friends” of foreign policy.
Here’s a list of the members of the bipartisan committee, with a short background and information on their stand on U.S. foreign policy and international spending.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) — chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a strong supporter of U.S. foreign aid programs. He is seen as an ally of the U.S. State Department and USAID to counter possible Republican proposals to cut deep into the U.S. foreign affairs and aid budget.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — cochairwoman of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit. A member of the Senate Budget Committee, she has supported various foreign aid-related legislation, including a reform proposal introduced in 2008 to boost U.S. global development capacity. She is part of the Senate Democratic leadership team.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) — chairman of the Finance Committee and a senior member of the Agriculture Committee.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) — ranking member of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism and homeland security. He is among a bipartisan group of senators who recently urged for suspension of U.S. aid to China.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — a freshman senator who served as trade representative under former U.S. President George W. Bush. He is among the freshmen Republican legislators that a think-tank expert called “friends” of foreign policy and whom the Obama administrator can potentially tap to support its aid program.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) — member of the Budget Committee, among others. Toomey is a freshman senator supported by the Tea Party, a populist, conservative and libertarian political grassroots movement.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) — cochairman of the joint select committee. He is vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. The Wall Street Journal describes him as “down-the-line conservative.”
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich) — chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He is also considered among the the Obama administration’s “friends” when it comes to foreign policy.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) — House Minority Whip and ranking member of the budget committee, which is responsible for writing the house’s budget blueprint each fiscal year. He has shown support for funding U.S. engagements overseas and has voted against House Resolution 38, which seeks to set nonsecurity spending levels, including the foreign affairs budget, at fiscal 2008 levels.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) — chairman of the energy and commerce committee.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif) — member of the committees on ways and means and budget.
Rep. James Clybum (D-S.C.) — the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representative.
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