HFAC approves authorization bill, minus that pesky foreign assistance part

EDITOR’S NOTE: Why is foreign assistance missing from Foreign Relations Authorization Act? “To avoid the partisan pitfalls,” Casey Dunning of the Center for Global Development says in her article in the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Blog.

Yesterday the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) approved the FY2013 Foreign Relations Authorization Act that it hopes will be the first authorizing bill to pass Congress in a decade. The bill aims to provide direction and guidance to appropriators and the administration as they fund and execute U.S. foreign affairs. But before you pop your confetti canisters and congratulate HFAC on a bipartisan job well done, check the fine print.  The bill excludes foreign assistance—all of it.

In an effort to pass an authorizing bill, the committee decided to completely excise the assistance part of its portfolio—65 percent of the international affairs budget!—and authorize only State Department operations (aka, the other 35 percent).

Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and ranking member Howard Berman (D-CA) no doubt wanted to avoid the partisan pitfalls that attracted more than 100 amendments to the FY2012 authorization bill and effectively made it dead on arrival. In keeping the focus solely on State Department mechanics and FY2012 funding levels this year, they were able to avoid contentious debates on issues like aid to Pakistan and funding family planning, muster bipartisan support, and move the bill forward, sans a foreign assistance section. But it means they also avoid an opportunity to influence U.S. foreign aid.

Instead, it will again fall to the State, Foreign Operations subcommittee appropriators to offer funding levels and guidance on U.S. foreign assistance. Except this time appropriators won’t even have a proposed FY2013 foreign aid authorization bill as a starting point. HFAC may consider the authorization bill’s approval a legislative victory, but it’s kind of like congratulating yourself on a win when half of the other team didn’t show up.

Republished with permission from the Center for Global Development. Read the original article.

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