Leahy Opening Remarks At The FY19 State And Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill Markup

Thank you Mr. Chairman.  At a time when some, including at the highest level, in our government seem to not miss any opportunity to fan the flames of intolerance and division in this country – and division between the United States and other nations including some of our closest allies – this Committee has refused to take part. 

We have instead sought to promote bipartisanship and unity in support of appropriations bills that reflect what is in the best interest of all Americans.

For a second year in a row, the budget for international diplomacy and development – and United States leadership around the world – is under assault by the Office of Management and Budget.  

This is no time to be dismantling the structures, personnel, programs, and budget of the Department of State, USAID, and our embassies and missions overseas.  As both Secretary Mattis and Secretary Pompeo have said, we should be doing what we can to bolster them.

I want to thank Chairman Graham and his very capable staff – Paul Grove, Jason Wheelock, and Adam Yezerski.  They have done an exemplary job.   

We carefully considered hundreds of requests from Senators, and we did our best to respond to those requests.

It is a bipartisan bill that protects many of the programs this Committee has supported for years, ensures congressional oversight of foreign policy, and encourages savings where we can be more efficient. 

It provides the amounts required to protect our embassies and diplomats, and supports programs to counter Russian influence, to rebuild areas liberated from ISIS, and for other security programs.

We do the same for the Peace Corps, Millennium Challenge Corporation, programs to assist refugees, to support public health, water and sanitation, and educational and cultural exchanges. 

We provide $515 million for the Northern Triangle countries in Central America to address the root causes of people fleeing gang violence and poverty.  Meanwhile, President Trump says he will issue an order barring foreign aid to countries that allow illegal immigration to the United States.  So the very funds we are providing to help stop migration, he threatens to cut – as if those countries can somehow solve these problems without our help.

This bill hews closely to the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus.  While I would have done some things differently if Democrats were in charge, this bill is the product of compromise and I urge everyone here to support it. 

We live in a time when the image of the United States, which has long prided itself in setting the example for government of the people, by the people, and for the people; a country that protects human rights; and a country that builds and nurtures alliances, is being damaged.  

In this bill, we do our best to ensure that this country can continue to act as the leader of the free world.   

I want to again thank Chairman Graham.  He has done an outstanding job defending this budget.

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