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House Republicans Release CR Proposing To Cut $100B From FY11 Budget

House Republican leaders on Friday evening released legislation “designed to fund the rest of the fiscal year, which includes $100 billion in discretionary spending cuts compared with President Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request,” National Journal reports.  

“This evening, on behalf of House Republicans, Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers [R-Ky.] introduced a continuing resolution that will reduce spending by at least $100 billion in the next seven months – a historic effort to get our fiscal house in order and restore certainty to the economy,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a press release (Sanchez/House, 2/11).

According to CQ, the Republican’s proposed continuing resolution (CR), “which would run from March 4 through the end of the [fiscal] year,” significantly cuts foreign aid programs (Cadei, 2/11). “The State and Foreign Operations section of the CR contains a total of $44.9 billion in funding, which is $3.8 billion, or 8 percent, below last year’s level and $11.7 billion, or 21 percent, below the President’s fiscal year 2011 request,” according to a summary (.doc) of the bill from the House Appropriations Committee (2/11). A list of program cuts (.pdf) from the Appropriations Committee notes that the Republican proposals seeks to reduce funding for global health and child survival by $783.5 million compared to the level enacted for FY10, which is $1.5 billion less that Obama’s FY11 budget request (2/11). Compared with 2010 levels, the bill also proposes lowering development assistance by $746 million and international disaster assistance by $415 million, The Hill’s “On The Money” blog writes (Wasson, 2/11). USAID “faces a cut of $121 million to its operating budget from 2010 levels. That compares with the $1.39 billion the conservative Republican Study Committee proposed slashing from USAID – virtually its entire operating budget – in January,” CQ reports.

The portion of the bill dealing with foreign aid “received the third largest percentage of cuts out of the 12 Appropriations subcommittees,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, said, the news service writes (2/11). “The reductions made to my section of the bill are a good start. As long as I am chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, I will ensure that our foreign aid is not used as a stimulus bill for foreign countries. This bill is about our national security and the funding levels reflect that,” she said in a press release. “Targeted cuts to the bill were partially made by rescinding funds from appropriations that remain unspent, freezing federal employee pay raises at the State Department, not funding programs that require authorizations, scaling back contributions to the United Nations and other international organizations, and eliminating wasteful, duplicative and ineffective programs,” according to the release from Granger’s office (2/11).

“Under a three-day waiting period the GOP instituted in January, the bill debate cannot begin until Tuesday at the earliest. If the bill is not passed before Presidents’ Day recess, the House and Senate would have only one week left of work to negotiate out a spending bill before March 4. If a new CR is not passed by March 4, the government will shut down. Congress can pass short-term extensions of the current CR, however,” The Hill’s “On The Money” blog writes of timeline.

After its release, the CR was “rejected by the lead appropriator in the Senate,” the blog notes. “It is clear from this proposal that House Republicans are committed to pursuing an ineffective approach to deficit reduction that attempts to balance the budget on the back of domestic discretionary investments, which constitute only a small percentage of overall federal spending,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also dismissed it. “Although Democrats have repeatedly urged them to join us in responsibly cutting waste and excess, Republicans have taken a meat ax to the initiatives that invest in our economy and create jobs for the sake of appeasing their base,” he said (2/11).

“More people want to see federal spending cut than in the past, but when it comes to specifics, the only area a plurality want to see cut is foreign aid, a new survey by the Pew Research Center shows,” The Hill’s “On The Money” blog reports.  

“Forty-five percent of those surveyed want to cut global poverty assistance [this year], compared to 21 percent who want it increased,” the blog writes (Wasson, 2/11). The national survey was conducted Feb. 2-7 among 1,385 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, according to a Pew press release (2/10).

Meanwhile during a visit to Afghanistan, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said proposals to reduce U.S. foreign aid spending could de-stabilize Afghanistan after U.S. troops withdraw, Reuters reports.

“In order to have a transition strategy, for our troops to be able to exit, and for us to be able to see gains in stability and governance and development be durable and sustainable, if USAID’s resources are cut back … that will both be costly to American taxpayers and it will be tremendously unwise,” Shah said. “Worse than all that, it will put our people’s lives at risk,” he added.

Shah “said USAID had struggled in the past to hold its aid contractors accountable, but said it had made big strides in maternal health, sending Afghan girls to school, increasing wheat yields and making tentative steps to expand farm exports. Back in Washington, Shah will be making the case on Capitol Hill that the vacuum to be left by the U.S. troop drawdown makes it all the more important to have a robust package from USAID, the biggest backer of aid activities in Afghanistan,” the news service writes. “A senior USAID official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said … the agency was planning for three years of high funding – in 2010-12 – for Afghanistan linked to Obama’s orders to increase civilian aid dramatically. After that, USAID funding would be expected to decline to levels more in line with what USAID would normally provide to a country of Afghanistan’s size and needs. ‘It’s not sustainable. A surge is a surge,’ the official said.”

The article looks at what development in Afghanistan might be like without major spending cuts from Congress and includes analysis from Shannon Scribner, a policy adviser at Oxfam America, and Noam Unger, an aid expert at the Brookings Institution (Ryan, 2/13).

U.S. Ambassador To U.N. Addresses Defeated Proposal To Reclaim U.S. Funding From U.N.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., “has condemned U.S. critics of the world body who have called for U.S. funds to be held back, while also attacking the U.N. for picking up ‘bad habits’ including mismanagement and corruption,” Agence France-Presse reports.

“Main Street America needs the United Nations,” Rice told the Oregon World Affairs Council in Portland on Friday, two days after a House of Representatives bill, which called for the U.N. to repay U.S. surplus contributions to a fund, was defeated (2/12). “Some critics argue that we should withhold our U.N. dues to try to force certain reforms, or that we should just pay for those U.N. programs we like the most,” Rice said in prepared remarks. “This is short-sighted, and it plain doesn’t work,” she added, Reuters reports (2/11).

“America can’t police every conflict, end every crisis, and shelter every refugee. The U.N. provides a real return on our tax dollars by bringing 192 countries together to share the cost of providing stability, vital aid, and hope in the world’s most broken places,” Rice said, AFP writes. “The truth is: the U.N. has also picked up some bad habits along the way, and we must continue to be clear about its shortcomings,” she added (2/12).

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