Statement Regarding Hearing On The Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request For USAID

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy,
Vice Chairman Of The Appropriations Committee,
And Ranking Member Of The State Department And Foreign Operations Subcommittee

Hearing On The Fiscal Year 2019
Budget Request For USAID
April 24, 2018

I join Chairman Graham in welcoming Administrator Green.

President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget repeats most of the cuts in his budget request last year, which was widely criticized by military leaders, foreign policy experts, the international development and U.S. business communities, and was overwhelmingly rejected by the Congress.

The President’s request for fiscal year 2019 is not the budget the United States needs to protect and promote our interests and influence abroad. Nor do I believe it provides Administrator Green with the resources he needs to effectively carry out USAID’s mission.

In fact, this budget would erode decades of progress, including in increasing life expectancy and lifting people out of poverty in developing countries, and promoting democratic values and human rights around the world.

During the more than 40 years that I have served in this body, there have been times when our government failed to defend the values and rights we stand for.

But I have also been encouraged by the many positive changes that our government has had a key role in around the world, that have contributed to increasingly open societies, greater respect for human rights, and greater accountability and transparency in government.

Unfortunately, those positive trends have been eclipsed by a rise in authoritarianism. Freedom House’s recent report notes that twice as many countries suffered declines in political rights and civil liberties last year than those that made gains. This is the twelfth consecutive year of decline in global freedom according to their report.

We see it in the rise of xenophobia in Europe;
In President Erdogan’s power grab in Turkey;
In President al-Sisi’s crackdown on civil society and political opponents in Egypt;
In President Putin’s subversion of democracy and his foreign policies of aggression;
In the jailing of political opponents in Venezuela and Cambodia;
In the assassinations of journalists and activists in Mexico, Honduras, and many other countries; and
In the expansion of China’s influence far beyond its borders.

And what has been the U.S. response? Not a day passes without President Trump using social media to vilify the press, undermine the independence of our justice system, and slander his opponents.

While the Obama Administration could have done more to counter this global trend, President Trump has actively encouraged it by repeatedly praising dictators and abdicating our country’s traditional role as a leader in defense of democratic values, judicial independence, and free expression.

I hope this Committee will stay united, as it was in fiscal year 2018, in opposing a return to isolationism and the abandonment of our country’s reputation as a global leader for democratic values. But we need support in the Executive Branch.

Administrator Green, you are being asked to justify a budget that falls far short of what is necessary to address the many challenges we face. USAID cannot do everything everywhere, but it must, at the very least, fight to sustain the progress we have made and to respond to new challenges and opportunities.

As someone who supports what you are trying to do under difficult circumstances, I look forward to hearing how USAID is working to ensure that the United States continues to set the example the world expects of us.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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