The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed Thursday the Electrify Africa Act, a bill that would authorize President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative beyond the current administration and aim to bring first time access to power to 60 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.
Electrify Africa is one of several development-related bills that have been waiting for months — in some cases years — in committee for a vote to bring them to the full Senate floor.
Devex Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar caught up with Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and one of the Senate’s clearest development voices, at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York. Coons gave a rundown on what we can expect the committee to get done in this legislative session, why it matters, and what might get in the way.
“We’re at a late stage in the Obama administration to be putting into statute things that I think were great initiatives,” Coons said.
Electrify Africa is a big step, but the first of several to secure bipartisan support for some of the biggest legislative priorities affecting U.S. foreign aid, and to ensure current programs have a “life beyond 2016.”
For that to happen, bills will have to evade the “poison pill amendments” that can doom the lawmaking process, and they’ll have to attract enough support to cut through the noise and rise to the attention of a crowded, contentious legislative agenda.
Coons is himself a sponsor of a few of those bills, and the senator is as well-versed as anyone in the politics and potential of the rest of them. His insights offer a glimpse of what it takes to attach congressional support to a development goal — and what it looks like when you’re successful in doing so.
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Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.
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