Lowey statement at full committee markup of FY 2019 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill
Thank you, Chairmen Frelingyhusen and Rogers. I join my chair in expressing my appreciation to the staff. From my staff: Steve Marchese, Erin Kolodjeski, Matt Washington, Liz Leibowitz, and Monica Pons, and from the Majority staff: Craig Higgins, Susan Adams, Clelia Alvarado, David Bortnick, Winnie Chang, Dean Koulouris, Megan O’Donnell and Alex Pinson. We all know that we cannot do this without them.
While I appreciate the bipartisan process in which they and we work on this bill, I’m disappointed in the allocation and several policy provisions. This bill is funded at the same level as FY 2018 but should be at least equal to the Senate’s increase of $400 million to recognize that we cannot further risk U.S. leadership abroad by shortchanging foreign aid and diplomacy.
While the bill before us avoids the Administration’s irresponsible FY 2019 proposal to cut our diplomatic and development efforts, with an $18 billion increase in discretionary spending for FY 2019, we could, and should, invest more than 1% of the budget in our overseas efforts.
For example, the unparalleled refugee crisis, numerous countries on the brink of famine, and ongoing threats to U.S. national security demand a more robust response from U.S. global leadership.
We would be more secure and garner more goodwill if, instead of the Republican plan to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on Trump’s border wall and deportation force, we increased our investments in diplomacy and other security assistance in this bill.
On the positive side, this bill maintains unwavering, bipartisan support and robust funding, in accordance with the new MOU, for our close ally Israel, and provides funding for other critical partners, such as Jordan, and for development goals in many of the world’s poorest countries. Further, this bill contains funding for the International Organizations and Programs account, recognizing that U.S. support for UN agencies gives taxpayers the best return on investment.
Unfortunately, this bill contains a number of short-sighted poison pills, from denying climate change to renewed attacks on women’s health. These onerous riders would make the world less safe, hurt the most vulnerable, and reduce the effectiveness of U.S. development.
In 2018, I find it hard to believe we are still arguing over the importance of international family planning and reproductive health programs. Study after study has shown that access to modern contraceptives not only prevents unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and maternal deaths, it is also key to gender equality and economic growth. But the mark would slash investments in bilateral family planning, codify the Global Gag Rule and its expansion into ALL global health, and prohibit U.S. contributions to UNFPA. These policies hurt vulnerable women and severely decrease the efficiency of U.S. aid programs.
Over the 28 years I have been privileged to work on these issues, I have always tried to keep contentious issues out of the bill. In the end, Democratic votes will be needed to pass this bill. I will be offering amendments today with many of my colleagues to remove the controversial riders from the bill. If we are not successful, I will regrettably have to oppose the bill at this stage.
In the FY 2018 omnibus, Congress rejected the dangerous riders and funding levels before us today. Democrats cannot support a bill if it would mean turning our backs to the world’s most vulnerable women or the looming threat of climate change.
Again, I thank the Chair and look forward to working with my colleagues to improve this bill.