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MinnPost Examines Foreign Aid Prospects In New Congress

The MinnPost examines the new Congress’ possible approach to foreign aid and international spending.

“We have an overwhelming number of new colleagues coming to Congress,” Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) said at a global aid forum in November at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. McCollum, who has served on the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs and also on the Committee on International Relations, said new members of Congress have “wanted to talk about domestic spending, so I can only imagine where their views fall on foreign aid.”

Michael Osterholm, a professor at the University of Minnesota who has promoted international efforts to improve global health, said the next Congress’ willingness to spend money on global aid is “really unknown at this point.”

According to the article, “The question now is which Republican attitude will prevail in the Tea Party era. Many Republicans who voted for Bush-era aid programs have retired or lost elections. Meanwhile, one Tea Party favorite, Sen.-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky, pledged during his campaign to target ‘the billions of dollars we waste on foreign aid.'”

Still, President Barack Obama’s global health and development efforts might encourage bipartisan cooperation, according to a report from the Center for American Progress. Obama’s policies “will definitely require a concerted bipartisan push, including a concerted effort to get new Members of Congress on board with sensible reforms that are in the best interests of their constituents,” said John Norris, author of the report.

“Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, cautiously agreed that the proposed reforms could open room for bipartisan action on at least some aspects of foreign aid,” MinnPost writes. “Both sides of the aisle are concerned about empowerment of women and girls,” Ellison said at the Humphrey forum. “Both sides of the aisle were concerned about issues of global health and all of these important development issues,” he said. Ellison predicted that Republicans will look for ways to cut aid programs linked to abortion. “We will see the re-emergence of the pro-choice/pro-life debate,” he said.

The article also looks at the role Minnesota plays in foreign aid. Alex Palacios, a special GAVI Alliance representative who also spoke at the forum, is also quoted. Though Palacios said he welcomed aid project scrutiny, “he fears that a spending-cut frenzy could foreclose chances for the truly effective programs to prove their worth.” He said, “My one worry is that there is going to be such a rush of wanting to do something because the political imperative is so high to fix this problem and fix it now.” He said, a “careful discussion, to look at the lessons of development over the last 10 years or so” is needed.

Also quoted are Katherine Kahn, a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Patricia Kenefick Stinchfield, who directs an immunization project and other programs for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota (Schmickle, 12/2).

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