Statement On Kerry-Lugar-Leahy-Durbin Amendment To The Budget Resolution

MR. LEAHY. I rise to speak in strong support of the amendment offered by Senators Kerry and Lugar – which I and many other Senators on both sides of the aisle are cosponsoring – to restore $4 billion to the international affairs function of the budget. 

This amendment would not have any effect on the top line for non-discretionary spending. It is budget neutral. 

We have two choices. Cut $4 billion from the President’s Fiscal year 2010 budget for national security and diplomacy programs as the Budget Resolution would do, or restore those funds, as the Kerry-Lugar-Leahy-Durbin amendment would do, and which both the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense have said is vital.  

This $4 billion is an insignificant amount when it comes to having an appreciable effect on the deficit over the long term, but it will pay immediate dividends in restoring United States influence around the world where it is desperately needed.

The difference we are talking about is whether to freeze funding for international assistance programs at the 2009 level, or to step up to the plate and fund the initiatives President Obama, and Members of Congress of both parties, have recognized are urgently needed.

These funds will be used to put the United States back in the driver’s seat on climate change. They will support the increases for Pakistan and Afghanistan that the Secretary of Defense says are critical elements of our counterterrorism strategy there. It is not just a military strategy. It is also a diplomatic and development strategy. 

These are the funds to support that. They will support treatment for millions of people infected with HIV/AIDS. Life-saving drugs that represent the best of America.

Years from now, countries in Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and Central Asia will remember what we do today. China is expanding its influence around the globe. We can step back and watch that happen, or we can show once again that the United States is going to lead by example. 

Not very long ago we had that chance with Russia. But rather than look for ways to put past hostilities and distrust behind us and embark on a new relationship, we sought to take advantage in ways that exacerbated that distrust. 

Today the relationship is a far cry from what it could and should be, and it will require significant investments in diplomacy to rebuild it. 

We can lead in the world, we can build new alliances and work to solve conflicts, promote stability and develop new markets, or we can turn inward. That is the choice we face with this amendment. We are part of a global economy. We face grave challenges, from al Qaeda in Pakistan to drug cartels in Mexico. Climate change threatens the survival of species in ways that may profoundly affect our own survival – not fifty million years from now, but within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. 

This is no time to trifle with the need for American leadership. I urge all Senators to vote for this amendment.

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