As Senate appropriators hone in on billion-dollar cuts in U.S. foreign assistance for fiscal 2012, development groups are ramping up pressure on Congress to resist additional reductions — a move, they say, that would undermine U.S. national interests and put the lives of millions of people in the developing world at risk.
Based on allocation guidelines released Sept. 8 by Senate Committee on Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the bill crafted by the committee’s state and foreign operations panel allocates $44.64 billion for the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and other international programs. This is significantly lower than Obama’s $50.8 billion state and foreign operation budget request for fiscal 2012 and the $48.16 enacted funding level for fiscal 2011.
Both House and Senate delayed the release and markup of their annual appropriations bills to be able to accommodate the $684 billion spending cap imposed by recently passed legislation to slash the U.S. budget deficit.
Some members of the U.S. development community have lauded the Senate Appropriations Committee for allocating a larger budget than its House counterpart. The House version of the bill, released July 27, would provide $39.6 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. State Department and USAID.
“We are very, very grateful” that the Senate allocation was higher, said Monica Mills, Bread for the World’s director of government relations, at a Sept. 21 press briefing. The hope, she said, was that the amount would not go down during negotiations with the House to reconcile the two spending proposals.
Tom Hart of ONE, meanwhile, said the bill is “encouraging” even though it does not provide the overall funding major U.S. aid groups were hoping for. He said there are indications the appropriations bill would allocate funding for various international programs at roughly the same levels as fiscal 2011 allocations.
“ONE and its more than 2.5 million members call on House appropriators to agree to the Senate version, particularly for effective programs that are central to a healthier, safer and more stable world,” the organization’s executive director in the United States., Sheila Nix, said in a statement.
Mills, however, stressed perennial cuts to the U.S. foreign aid budget are “moving in the wrong direction” because they deprive programs of the funding they need to effectively operate, such as Feed the Future, which she argued provides good returns on investments.
Meanwhile, as House and Senate committee continue their 2012 budget deliberation, the U.S. government is facing yet another threat of a shutdown. House Democrats on Sept. 21 rejected a Republican proposal for a continuing resolution that would fund government operations through Nov. 18 due to disagreements over the funding of domestic disaster response operations.
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