11.15.11

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Department Of State And Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery

Mr. LEAHY.  Mr. President, this year the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee had to fund key national security programs that support –

  • the Nation’s counter-terrorism strategy in South Asia, the Horn of Africa, and the far East;
  • respond to turbulent events in the Middle East and North Africa, and threats on the Mexican border;
  • combat transnational crime, piracy of intellectual property, and the denial of fundamental freedoms;
  • promote access for U.S. companies to foreign markets;
  • operate and secure our embassies and consulates that serve millions of Americans traveling, working and studying overseas;
  • preserve U.S. influence in key international organizations and alliances; and
  • respond to a massive famine in Somalia, floods, and other humanitarian disasters.

We have to do this and much more with a budget allocation that is $6 billion below the President’s request. 

“Foreign aid” today is a term that is often maligned and misunderstood.  It is viewed by many as a form of charity, or a luxury we can do without, or as a sizable part of the Federal budget.  It is none of those things, as the list I just mentioned clearly illustrates.

These have never been Democratic or Republican issues.  The funds in this bill determine whether the United States will remain the global leader it has been since the Second World War.  Just six weeks ago, former President George W. Bush said:

“One of the lessons of September 11th is that what happens overseas matters here at home. . .We face an enemy that can only recruit when they find hopeless people, and there is nothing more hopeless to a child who loses a mom or dad to AIDS to watch the wealthy nations of the world sit back and do nothing.” 

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was equally blunt about the stakes involved.  She said:

“We don’t have an option to retire, to take a sabbatical from leadership in the international community and the world.  If we do, one of 2 things will happen.  There will be chaos, because without leadership there will be chaos in the international community, and that is dangerous.  But it’s quite possible, that if we don’t lead, somebody else will.  And perhaps it will be someone who does not share our values of compassion, the rights of the individual, of liberty, and freedom.” ?

I could not agree more, and I hope other Senators appreciate what is at stake.  Just as past generations rallied to meet the formidable challenges of the Great Depression, the Nazis, and the Cold War, we will bear responsibility if we fail to meet the challenges of today.

It is no wonder that other countries – our allies and our competitors – are spending more each year to project their influence around the world, and to compete in the global marketplace.  Great Britain’s conservative government is on a path to increase its international development assistance to .7 percent of its national budget, compared to .2 percent for the United States. 

Our leadership is being challenged unlike at any time since the Cold War.  In Latin America, which is a larger market for U.S. exports than any other region except the European Union, our share is shrinking while China’s is growing.  It is the same story everywhere. 

There is simply no substitute for U.S. global leadership.  The world is changing profoundly, and we cannot afford to retrench or succumb to isolationism.

The funding in this bill enables us to engage with our allies, defeat our competitors, and deter our adversaries.  It is an attractive target for campaign speeches, but without it we cannot meet the growing threats to our struggling economy and our national security.

This bill, which was reported by the Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan vote of 28 to 2, is $6 billion below the President’s budget request.  It scales back many Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development operations and programs and will force significant reductions in planned expenditures.

I doubt there is a single Member of Congress who does not care if the United States becomes a second or third rate power.  We expect the United States to lead, to build alliances, to help American companies compete successfully, and to protect the interests and security of its citizens. 

Yet there are unmistakable signs that our global influence is already waning.  It is not preordained that the United States will remain the world’s dominant power.  As former Secretary Rice said, “if we don’t lead, somebody else will”. 

You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t expect others to follow if you don’t lead, and you can’t lead if you don’t pay your way.   

We need to stop acting like these investments do not matter, that the State Department is not important; that we do not need the United Nations; that what happens in Brazil, Russia, the Philippines, Somalia, or other countries does not matter; and that global threats to the environment, public health and safety will somehow be solved by others. 

This bill, which was drafted in a bipartisan manner, balances our priorities.  Funding for these programs was requested by Republicans and Democrats.  In fact, the total requests we received dwarfed what Senator Graham and I had available to spend.  

There are no earmarks in this bill.  Because of the budget cuts, Members on my side did not get close to everything they wanted and neither did Members on Senator Graham’s side. 

To anyone who thinks that the 1 percent of the Federal budget that we spend on international diplomacy and development is too much, this bill will freeze embassy and consular operations, curtail programs, and in some cases defer payments to international organizations that we are obligated by treaty to pay.

The country is at a crossroads.  We can retreat from the world, as some in the other body seem to want, while China and our other competitors continue to expand their influence, or we can remain a leader.  I hope we will have the sense to choose the latter course.

The funding in this bill, which is strongly supported by the Department of Defense, is, along with the United States military, the best form of insurance the American people have.

I want to thank Chairman Inouye and Senator Cochran, for their support for the Subcommittee’s budget.

And I want to thank Senator Graham, who is a highly informed and passionate advocate for United States global leadership.  I have greatly appreciated his input and support, as I have the other Members of the Appropriations Committee from both parties. 

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