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House and Senate bills on poverty-reducing international aid are far apart.
It’s hard not to sympathize with House Appropriations staff. They were up against delivering a State and Foreign Operations bill that began with a $10 billion lower allocation than the Senate, including outright budget cuts and the sequester.
“To bring down our dangerously high deficits, this bill cuts $8 billion from last year,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said earlier this week. “To achieve these cuts without causing irreversible harm to our international programs and involvement, the subcommittee went line-by-line through the bill and found wasteful, ineffective, lower-priority, or just plain unnecessary programs to target for reductions.”
Unfortunately the outcome was that key poverty-focused programs suffered dramatic cuts. High priority and critically important programs like Feed the Future, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program Trust Fund, and climate resilience programs were cut 26%. International Disaster Assistance was cut 27%. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, the pioneering development program championed by President Bush, was cut 22%.
Granted the Senate had $10 billion more to spend, but as is consistently the case, we were gratified to see strong bipartisan leadership in Senate State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Senator Graham. They understand the critical importance of poverty-focused foreign assistance funding–to our foreign policy, our national security and our moral leadership around the world.
House and Senate bills have probably never in history been further apart, and if these bills go to conference, we will work to ensure the Senate numbers for poverty-focused foreign assistance prevail.