01.14.14

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Fiscal Year 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act

Mr. President, after many long days and nights of four-party negotiations across a dozen subcommittees over the past month, on Sunday night the Appropriations Committee completed work on the fiscal year 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act. 

I want to commend Chairwoman Mikulski, without whom this would not have been possible.  It was, above all, her relentless pursuit of this goal, and her unmatched ability to rally her subcommittee troops, that got us to this point.  

And it would not have been possible without the cooperation of my friend from Alabama, Senator Shelby, the Committee’s Ranking Member.  Like Chairwoman Mikulski, he recognized the importance of passing appropriations bills rather than continuing to fund the government on autopilot for another year.

This bill means no sequester in fiscal year 2014, and there will not be another disastrous government shutdown which achieved nothing, disrupted the lives of millions of American families, and cost the taxpayers some $24 billion. 

As chairman of the Department of State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee I want to thank Senator Lindsey Graham, who brings a level of energy and knowledge to our subcommittee that few could match.  He and I agree a lot more than we disagree, and I value and appreciate his input and support. 

I want to use the few minutes I have to mention a few things in our division of the Omnibus, for the benefit of Senators and others who have been asking. 

First, the big picture.  For the Department of State and foreign operations, the bill provides $49 billion in discretionary budget authority to protect a wide array of United States security, humanitarian, and economic interests around the world.  The total is $2.2 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted post-sequester level.

Of this amount, $6.5 billion is for Overseas Contingency Operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq and other areas in political transition, including the Middle East and North Africa, and to respond to humanitarian emergencies, particularly in Syria and the Middle East and central Africa. 

Anyone who doubts that these funds are important should consider what is happening today in Syria, and in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where 2 million Syrians have fled, and in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced because of explosions of ethnic and tribal violence.  The bill provides significant increases in funding for refugees and other humanitarian programs.

The bill provides funding above the President’s request for security at U.S. embassies and other diplomatic facilities; it fully funds our commitments to key allies like Israel and Jordan; it substantially funds our contributions to the United Nations and other international organizations and for UN peacekeeping; and it fully funds the U.S. contribution to the Global AIDS Fund.

Here are a few specifics:

Many Senators care about global health, for good reason.  HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases threaten millions of Americans who travel, live, study and serve in the Armed Forces overseas, as well as here at home.  Billions of people in the poorest countries, especially children, die or suffer from illnesses that can be easily prevented or treated.

The bill provides a total of $6 billion, the highest amount in history, for programs to combat HIV/AIDS, including $1.65 billion for the Global Fund.

The bill provides historic levels to combat polio, malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases, and it provides $175 million for the GAVI Alliance, which provides life-saving vaccines to children in the poorest countries. 

For Egypt, which many have been asking about, the bill provides up to the amounts requested for fiscal year 2014 – $250 million for economic aid and $1.3 billion for military aid. 

But the military aid is only available to pay current defense contracts, and the proceeds may not be delivered to Egypt unless the Secretary of State certifies there is a national referendum and the government is taking steps to support the democratic transition, and there are democratic elections and a newly elected government is taking steps to govern democratically. 

These are the same commitments the Government of Egypt has made to the Egyptian people.  Contrary to some inaccurate press reports, there is no waiver if the Egyptian government reneges on these commitments.  These are the toughest conditions the Congress has imposed on aid to the Egyptian military. 

We want to see the restoration of democracy and respect for fundamental freedoms in Egypt, including the rights of women, civil society, and religious minorities.  If the military continues its repressive tactics, arresting democracy activists and does not hold free and fair elections, the certifications will not be possible and U.S. aid will be cut off.

There are exceptions for counterterrorism, border security, and programs in the Sinai, which are currently being funded.

The bill cuts aid for Afghanistan by 50 percent from the current level.  It has become abundantly clear that as U.S. troops withdraw the security environment is worsening.  This reality, coupled with the refusal of the Karzai government to sign a bilateral security agreement, widespread corruption, and the diminishing ability to monitor how U.S. funds are spent, compel a more targeted, sustainable approach. 

I am pleased that we were able to include the amounts requested for the Clean Technology Fund and the Strategic Climate Fund, as well as the Global Environment Facility and other programs to protect tropical forests, which are being destroyed at an alarming rate, and to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking. 

There is a lot more in this bill, to support friends and allies and combat poverty, strengthen the rule of law and protect human rights.  There are also some things I wish were not in here, particularly a House provision that would weaken limits on carbon emissions from projects financed by the Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation.  We should be using public funds to support exports of clean, renewable technology, not to fund power projects that worsen global warming.

I am also very disappointed that a Senate provision to bring the United States into compliance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations was rejected by the House.  By not including this provision we jeopardize the essential right of consular assistance for Americans arrested in foreign countries, and weaken our credibility as a nation that respects the rule of law. 

Mr. President, one never gets everything one wants in an appropriations bill, but the Department of State and Foreign Operations portion is a lot better than the alternative continuing resolution.  I appreciate the way the House, particularly Chairwoman Granger and Ranking Member Lowey, and their staffs, worked with Senator Graham and me and our staffs. 

It was a collaborative effort from beginning to end, and the outcome is a balanced bill that deserves bipartisan support.

 

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