11.06.13

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy Consequences of the House Allocation for the Department of State and Foreign Operations

Mr. LEAHY.  Mr. President, as the Budget conferees work to reach agreement on the fiscal year 2014 budget, I want to join those who have expressed strong support for their efforts. 

We all know what the consequences will be if they do not reach agreement on a budget.

Draconian cuts to defense acquisitions and readiness, to social safety net programs, to infrastructure, public schools, police – every federal program will suffer, and every American will feel the impact.

Having been in the Senate a long time I know that anything that gets done around here happens as a result of compromise.  And when it comes to a budget agreement that means increased revenues and it means additional savings.  There is no other way.  You have to do both. 

Those who think it can be done by only cutting spending, or by only closing corporate tax loopholes, but not by doing both together, are legislators in name only.  That is a recipe for continued gridlock and another year of sequestration, which would be a disaster.    

The outcome of this budget conference will determine the extent to which the Congress will play a meaningful role in federal spending for the rest of this Administration, and possibly well beyond.

There is no better way to illustrate what is at stake than to use concrete examples.  I want to do that by comparing the impact of the fiscal year 2014 House and Senate versions of the bill that funds the Department of State and foreign operations.  The choices are stark, and it puts things in perspective.

The House bill provides $40 billion to fund the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and our contributions to the World Bank, UN peacekeeping, and countless other organizations and programs that contribute to global security.

In contrast, the Senate bill would provide $50 billion, 25 percent more than the House bill for these same agencies and programs.  But, lest anyone falsely accuse the Senate of being big spenders, the Senate bill responds to the current budget climate.

It is $500 million below the fiscal year 2013 continuing resolution after sequestration and across-the-board reductions, and includes many budget reductions and savings. 

Unlike the House bill, however, the Senate bill does not make draconian, reckless cuts that would weaken U.S. influence and cede U.S. leadership to our competitors. 

Given the situations in Syria, North Africa, and other areas of conflict as well as the unpredictability of natural disasters, funding for international crisis response and humanitarian relief is a matter of life and death for millions of the world’s most vulnerable people. 

The current demand for these programs, which are strongly supported by the American people, is unprecedented and growing.  Yet the House bill cuts these programs $1.6 billion below the Senate bill, and far below the fiscal year 2013 level. 

One of the most troubling cuts in the House bill is for international organizations in which the U.S. plays a major role in addressing global threats like transnational crime, disease epidemics, and climate change that no country can solve alone. 

The House would end our support entirely for many of these organizations, create large arrears that we are obligated by treaty to pay, and erode our influence with other major contributors and shareholders like the Europeans, China, India, and Brazil.

 

The House bill provides no funding – not one dollar –for U.S. voluntary contributions to the United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Montreal Protocol which protects the ozone layer.  The Senate bill includes $355 million for these organizations and programs, which is about the same level as five years ago. 

So while the House would end our participation in UNICEF and many other UN agencies, the Senate bill freezes spending for these organizations at the 2009 level. 

 

The House bill provides $746 million, which is nearly 50 percent less than the Senate bill, for assessed contributions to international organizations like NATO, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and many others. 

To put things in perspective, the Senate bill is $72 million below the fiscal year 2009 level, and the House bill is $783 million below the fiscal year 2009 level. 

Does anyone actually believe that the needs of NATO, the IAEA, WHO, and these other critically important organizations are less today than five years ago?  It defies logic.  It is also dangerous.

 

The House bill provides no funding – not one dollar – for most of the international financial institutions like the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, or the International Fund for Agricultural Development.  This would put us hundreds of millions of dollars in arrears, forfeiting our leadership in these institutions.

Likewise, the House bill provides no funding – not one dollar – for the key multilateral environmental funds which support clean energy technology and protect forests and water resources, including the Global Environment Facility, the Clean Technology Fund, and the Strategic Climate Fund.  The Senate bill freezes spending for these programs at last year’s level. 

The House bill provides no funding – not one dollar – for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.  The Senate bill provides $135 million for this program which helps the poorest countries prevent chronic malnutrition and famine.  That is the same level as last year’s continuing resolution.

We all understand the need for federal departments and agencies to reduce costs, eliminate waste, and find efficiencies.  The Senate bill does that, responsibly.  And, again, the fiscal year 2014 Senate bill is $500 million below the fiscal year 2013 continuing resolution. 

While the House approach may make for a good press release if you believe the federal government doesn’t matter, it will end up costing taxpayers more in the long run and cause lasting damage to the country.

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