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Clinton, Kerry Caution Against FY11 Foreign Aid Cuts At Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senate Foreign Relations Chair John Kerry (D-Mass.) “decried House GOP cuts to the [FY11] foreign affairs budget,” The Hill’s “On The Money” blog reports.  “There is something about these cuts that does violence to the Judeo-Christian ethic so many people claim to uphold,” Kerry said, adding that food and health aid for people in the developing world would be significantly reduced.

“As I have told Speaker Boehner and Chairman Rogers and many others, the 16 percent cut to State and USAID would be devastating to our national security,” Clinton said. “‘Now, there have always been moments of temptation in our country to resist obligations beyond our border,’ she added, noting how the United States walked away from Afghanistan in the Cold War. ‘But those savings came at an unspeakable cost – one we are still paying, 10 years later, in money and lives,'” Clinton said, the blog reports (Wasson, 3/2). She added budget cuts for development projects and diplomacy would hamper U.S. influence in some parts of the world where China is trying to assert itself, saying, “Let’s put aside the humanitarian, do-good side of what we believe in. Let’s just talk straight realpolitik. We are in competition with China,” the Associated Press reports (3/2).

During the hearing, which focused on the “Obama administration’s $47 billion 2012 budget request for diplomacy and development,” Clinton noted her concerns about the U.S. image abroad, the Washington Post reports. “So warped is the U.S. image in many parts of the world that some people regard the United States as a land of bikini-clad women and professional wrestlers, said Clinton, whose State Department is increasingly using Twitter and other social media as a way of getting out unfiltered messages in the Middle East and other parts of the developing world,” the newspaper reports. “We are in an information war, and we’re losing that war,” Clinton said (Warrick, 3/3).

In prepared remarks, Clinton called Obama’s FY12 proposal, “a lean budget for lean times,” according to a State Department transcript. “We scrubbed this budget. We made painful but responsible cuts,” she said, noting reductions in aid to Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

She outlined some “key investments” in the budget, such as the State Department’s “largest investment” in the area of global health. The programs “save the lives of mothers and children and they halt the spread of deadly diseases,” she said. “Global food prices are approaching an all-time high. Three years ago, this led to protests and riots in dozens of countries. Food security is a cornerstone of global stability. We are helping farmers to grow more food, drive economic growth, and turn aid recipients into trading partners,” the transcript states. She also highlighted “targeted investments in human security,” which include focusing on hunger. “We have invested in preventing and ameliorating the effects of disease, climate change, humanitarian emergencies. These challenges not only threaten the security of individuals, and increasingly in our world, individuals here at home, but they are the seeds of future conflict,” Clinton said (3/2). A video recording of the hearing and opening statements from the committee leaders are available on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s website.

Senate Approves FY11 CR As Obama Calls For Administration Meeting With Congressional Leaders To Resolve Budget Issues

The Senate on Wednesday approved 91-9 and President Barack Obama signed into law a stop-gap measure to continue government spending for two weeks, delaying a possible government shutdown, CQ reports.  The measure “is free of controversial policy provisions, which allowed Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to throw his support behind the continuing resolution (CR),” CQ writes.

“President Obama praised passage of the two-week measure but said ‘we cannot keep doing business this way. Living with the threat of a shutdown every few weeks is not responsible, and it puts our economic progress in jeopardy,'” according to the publication. “Obama called on congressional leaders from both parties to begin meeting immediately with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley and Jacob J. Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget, ‘so we can find common ground on a budget that makes sure we are living within our means'” (Carter, 3/2).

Meanwhile, in response to pending FY11 foreign aid budget cuts, Rich Stearns, president of World Vision, “sent what he called a rare email request to donors alerting them to deep cuts in foreign aid passed by House Republicans,” the Seattle Times’ “Politics Northwest” blog reports. The House’s FY11 proposal to reduce overall spending levels by $61 billion “would hit foreign aid budgets particularly hard,” the blog notes. The post also highlights two polls indicating that Americans think foreign aid is bigger part of the budget than it actually is (Song, 3/2).

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