12.16.11

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Fiscal Year 2012 Departmet Of State And Foreign Operations Conference Agreement

As Entered Into The Congressional Record

Mr. LEAHY.  Mr. Chairman, as Chairman of the Department of State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, I want to speak briefly about the agreement that I and the Ranking Member, Senator Lindsey Graham, have reached with the House and that is reflected in division I of this Omnibus bill.

I want to thank Senator Graham, along with House Subcommittee Chair Kay Granger and Ranking Member Nita Lowey, and their staffs, for working in such a bipartisan way to resolve our many differences.  It is a good example of how a divided Congress can deal with controversial issues and produce an outcome that protects a broad range of interests.

The Department of State and Foreign Operations conference agreement is a compromise.  It is neither a Democratic nor Republican bill.  It will not make anyone completely happy.  But while it does not include everything that I or Senator Graham wanted, it does a good job of addressing the key national security needs of the country.

This is a must pass bill.  The alternative is another year of a continuing resolution, which would force drastic cuts in funding for programs that Republicans and Democrats feel strongly about.

This conference agreement does many things.  It:

n  supports the Nation’s counter-terrorism efforts in South Asia, the Horn of Africa, and East Asia;

n  responds to turbulent events in the Middle East and North Africa, and threats on the Mexican border;

n  combats transnational crime, piracy of intellectual property, and the denial of fundamental freedoms;

n  promotes access for U.S. companies to foreign markets;

n  operates and secures our embassies and consulates that serve millions of Americans traveling, working and studying overseas;

n  preserves U.S. influence in key international organizations and alliances;

n  supports economic development, governance and the rule of law in Africa, Latin America, and Asia; and

n  responds to a massive famine in Somalia, floods in El Salvador, and other humanitarian disasters.

We do this and much more with a base budget allocation that is $8.7 billion below the President’s request, and a combined base and Overseas Contingency Operations total that is $6.1 billion below the President’s request.

These are not Democratic or Republican issues.  The funds in this conference agreement will determine whether the United States remains the global leader it has been since the Second World War. 

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. 

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 conference agreement enables us to engage with our allies and deter our adversaries and competitors.  It is similar to what was reported by the Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan vote of 28 to 2.  For those who are focused on reducing Federal spending, it cuts base spending by $6 billion below the fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution.  It freezes spending or scales back many Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development operations and programs and will force reductions in planned expenditures. 

To the extent that there are funding increases in this bill, they are primarily due to the transition from military to civilian operations in Iraq which will mean billions of dollars in savings to American taxpayers, and to meet pledges to the international financial institutions. 

I doubt there is a single Member of Congress who does not care if the United States becomes a second or third rate power.  As a Vermonter, I know the people of my state want the United States to live up to its ideals, to set an example for the rest of the world.  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 of State Condoleezza Rice said, “if we don’t lead, somebody else will”. 

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 conference agreement balances our priorities.  Again, funding for these programs was requested by Republicans and Democrats.    

This 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.  The conference agreement adopts the latter course, and Members on both sides of the aisle deserve credit for that. 

Mr. President, the funding in this bill is strongly supported by the Department of Defense.  Along with the United States military, it is the best form of insurance the American people have. 

I want to thank Chairman Inouye and Vice Chairman Cochran, as well as the Majority and Minority leaders for their support in completing this Omnibus bill.

I yield the floor.

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