EDITOR’S NOTE: The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, which lobbies the U.S. Congress and executive branch for a “robust” foreign affairs budget, released a detailed look at how the U.S. congressional election results may affect the country’s foreign assistance strategy. Here are some excerpts:
This year’s midterm elections ushered in a tidal wave of new faces who ran on platforms to cut spending and clean up what is perceived as a federal government gone out of control. Running against Washington was the popular thing to do this year, and longtime incumbents paid the price with their seats. With the economy still sputtering, unemployment high, and deficits soaring, federal spending dominated the campaign trail and the airwaves this cycle, with almost no attention to national security or foreign policy.
As the President puts together his FY 2012 budget and Congress starts to deliberate over it this February, we can be certain the International Affairs Budget will be under the same scrutiny as other federal programs.
The Tea Party and Foreign Policy
This year’s election saw the emergence of the Tea Party as a major political force with a slew of candidates united by a belief in smaller, more limited government. In the end, the Senate elected three (with Alaska still pending) and the House elected 18 Tea Party-backed candidates. Of those elected, the extent to which they identify primarily as a member of the Tea Party varies.
As for foreign policy, there is no central Tea Party platform, which makes these candidates wild cards on our issues. Some have expressed a desire for more limited global engagement as they believe more focus should be placed on domestic issues during difficult economic times. One widely-held view among Tea Party-backed candidates is a general aversion and suspicion of international organizations. Several candidates’ campaign materials and policy positions expressed opposition to America’s participation in the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. Individual candidates have made statements skeptical of international trade and the role of multinational corporations, but for the most part, international issues have not been a focus of the Tea Party.
While one candidate specifically calls for cutting foreign assistance, USGLC supporters met with a few Tea Party candidates during the campaign season and found some open to our message. It is too soon to know whether the Tea Party will have any discernible impact on foreign policy issues.
With a focus on efficiencies and accountability, Secretary Clinton’s call for more effective use of our civilian power should be welcome news to the new Congress. As we urge bipartisan support for greater investments in our civilian agencies, it will be important to highlight reforms already underway to ensure effective, transparent and accountable foreign assistance programs. For example, educating new members about State/USAID efforts to implement a robust monitoring and evaluation system and improve implementation efficiencies will be essential.
Re-published with permission by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. Visit the original paper.