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Clinton Defends State Department Budget Requests Before House Panel

In her testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday about President Barack Obama’s FY12 budget request, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also defended the State Department’s FY11 budget request, Bloomberg reports. Clinton said the proposed budget cuts for FY11 would be “devastating” to U.S. national security, and U.S. programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq would see “sharp reductions” if the proposed cuts are passed. Clinton “used the hearing to warn lawmakers against the impulse to withdraw from global engagement,” according to the news service. 

She also “championed a combined military and diplomatic approach to foreign affairs,” using as an example USAID’s efforts to “provide food and medical supplies to Libya, supported by the U.S. military,” the news service writes. “This integrated approach is not just how we respond to the crisis of the moment,” Clinton said. “It is the most effective – and cost-effective – way to sustain and advance our security across the world. And it is only possible with a budget that supports all the tools in our national security arsenal,” she said, Bloomberg reports (Gaouette, 3/1).

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, “said the cuts were ‘simply a slash and burn process’ that had no consideration for the benefits of foreign aid and would hurt congressional oversight,” according to Foreign Policy’s blog “The Cable.” Berman said, “Aid to others isn’t a gift. The United States supports other countries because it’s in our interests” (Rogin, 3/1).

In response to Clinton’s assertion that cuts in foreign aid would damage national security, “several Republicans argued that the nation’s deficit, which has been projected to reach $1.6 trillion this year, also represents a threat to U.S. stability,” according to the news service. 

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the House committee’s chair, “criticized the State Department for ‘misplaced priorities’ for investing in global health and climate change over counterterrorism” and asked about such programs’ return on investment, according to Bloomberg. Clinton said, “These programs stabilize entire societies that have been devastated by HIV, malaria and other diseases.” If the cuts are approved, PEPFAR “would have to turn away 400,000 people, and 16 million people would be denied treatment, she said.” Clinton is scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday (3/1).

House Subcommittee Hears Testimony on International Food Aid, Other Programs

A House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on Monday examined funding for international food aid and other programs, CQ reports. “While the focus was on the fiscal 2012 budget, subcommittee members also discussed more than $5 billion in proposed cuts for the department in the House-passed spending bill (HR 1) that would fund the government through September,” the news service notes.  

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the subcommittee chair, “said he was not hostile to the McGovern-Dole or Food for Peace aid programs, but wanted to know what kind of return on investment the United States receives in goodwill and support, according to CQ. “When we talk about this is national security or this is building relationships, there should be some metrics on it,” Kingston said, adding, “I think we should look at what we’re achieving.” He also said he was concerned about the financial implications of food aid and noted that farmers in developing countries are unable to compete with U.S. commodities.

Former subcommittee chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) “said food assistance fills a vacuum in developing countries that groups similar to the Taliban in Afghanistan or terrorist groups hostile to the United States otherwise might fill. Parents in those countries will say, ‘I’ll do whatever you say so my children won’t go hungry,’ warned DeLauro.” CQ notes that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testified at the hearing and “fielded all questions, sticking to the administration message that Congress should invest in selected programs while cutting other spending” (Ferguson, 3/1).

House Approves FY11 Continuing Resolution To Fund Government Through March 18

The House on Tuesday approved a two-week FY11 continuing budget measure that cuts $4 billion in federal spending, and Senate Democrats agreed to pass the bill and send it to President Obama to avoid a government shutdown when the current budget expires on Friday, the New York Times reports (Hulse, 3/1).

The continuing resolution (CR) passed 335-91 and extends funding for the government through March 18, CQ reports (Carter, 3/1). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “said the Senate would clear the House stopgap measure (H J Res 44) within the next two days” before the current spending law expires, according to a second CQ story (Goldfarb, 3/1).