Facing Possible Cuts, International Aid Advocates Attempt To Drum Up Support For Foreign Assistance

International aid groups are “scrambling to engage members of Congress and the American public in a dialogue about the need to secure U.S. foreign assistance funding” as the “next deadline for the U.S. Congress to pass a full fiscal year 2011 budget or another short-term continuing resolution is fast approaching” and discussions on the FY12 budget need to begin, the Devex blog “Obama’s Foreign Aid Reform” reports.

Foreign aid advocates have adopted “two key approaches” to deal with the stalled budget negotiations. “First, prominent actors of the international aid community are fighting a media war to dispel myths about the current level of U.S. foreign assistance in the hope that the American public will react against potential cuts by Congress. Second, members of the aid community are meeting with staffers on Capitol Hill to raise awareness about the current state of U.S. assistance overseas,” according to the blog, which goes on to highlight recent examples of both strategies.

“The anxiety in the international aid community about the fate of the 2011 and 2012 budgets belies a wider concern about the role of U.S. foreign assistance,” the blog notes. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have made the U.S. development strategy more coherent, according to Gregory Adams, Oxfam America’s director of aid effectiveness. Particularly during the Obama administration’s first two years with a Democratic Congress, the government “began to illustrate a policy that was clearer on how it would engage with developing countries and one that strengthened USAID as the leading government body for articulating U.S. development policy,” the blog writes.

At a recent event, Anne Richard, vice president of the International Rescue Committee, agreed with Adams. “After taking years to build up a more coherent strategy and subsequently hiring staff at relevant agencies to carry out this strategy, the economic downturn and ensuing budgetary anxiety hit,” the blog reports. Richard said, “It’s 2011 and the administration is finally ready, and [then] the Congress flipped” (Pandya, 3/29).

House, Senate Have Not Reached Agreement On FY11 Budget

At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said House Republicans and Senate Democrats had not been able to reach an agreement about the FY11 budget, Roll Call reports.

“There are a lot of numbers that have been discussed,” but “the fact is there is not an agreement on a number,” he said. Boehner’s comments “came shortly after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said House Republicans fled negotiations to fund the government beyond April 8, when the current continuing resolution [CR] expires. Reid said the two sides are $6 billion apart in their overall spending levels, but Boehner spokesman Michael Steel denied that claim,” according to the publication (Brady, 3/29).

Also on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) “ruled out another short-term measure to fund the government, raising pressure on both parties to reach a deal to avert a government shutdown after April 8,” The Hill reports.  

“Yeah, I want to see a long-term CR here,” Cantor said in response to a question about whether he would rule out another continuing resolution for the budget. “We’ve got bigger things to deal with. Time is up here,” he added (Hooper/Wasson, 3/29). “Cantor controls the pacing of legislation on the House floor and will decide when to schedule any future continuing resolution to keep the government operating after the current resolution expires,” Politico notes.

Boehner also did not “rule out another short-term spending bill and didn’t walk away from the fact that in the course of negotiations, smaller cuts have been discussed – albeit without agreement,” the news service writes. When asked about the possibility of another CR, Boehner said, “I’m not going to put any options on the table or take any options off the table” (Rogers/Sherman, 3/29).

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