Chairwoman Lowey Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY 2021 State and Foreign Operations Funding Bill

2020-07-09 11:00

WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, delivered the following remarks at the Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2021 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill:

We will now consider the Fiscal Year 2021 State and Foreign Operations bill.

Having served on the subcommittee for three decades and as either Chairwoman or Ranking Member for two decades, it is bittersweet to mark up this bill for the last time before I retire at the end of this Congress.

Since World War II, long before any of our service here, foreign aid has been a key component of United States foreign policy.

During my time on this committee, we have experienced pivotal moments that underscore the significance of the billions we allocate for foreign assistance to advance American values in promoting freedom and democracy and to support development and security around the world. 

On September 11th, nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives, including some of my constituents who perished on the sacred ground where the Twin Towers once touched the sky.

We need look no further than our masks and spaced seating to recognize we are living through another such moment. Coronavirus has claimed a staggering 540,000 lives worldwide, including over 131,000 Americans and is another stark reminder that circumstances and events half a world away can have serious consequences here at home.

The foreign assistance bill embodies our common belief in the absolute necessity of effective global engagement. This is not only a moral imperative; it supports the safety and security of all Americans.

As I reflect on this subcommittee’s work, I can say without question that we have helped to make the world better. To highlight just a few achievements: We have stemmed the scourge of HIV/AIDS, helped provide food and shelter for families displaced by crises, intervened against atrocities, and advanced equity and opportunity for women so that they, and their children, might prosper.

I am particularly proud of record levels of support for more than 80 million children globally, especially girls, to receive a basic education, which is the single greatest force multiplier in foreign aid.

I am also proud that we have stood up for women, providing basic health assistance through international family planning, which enables them to contribute to improved health and economic outcomes for their families and communities.

It has been my honor to work with all of you on this bill. I am particularly grateful for the strong bipartisan partnerships on this subcommittee and for the leadership of former Chairs Hal Rogers and Kay Granger.

Mr. Rogers, today’s bill is stronger for your input on shared, bipartisan priorities.

Now, I want to highlight the bill before us today. With a total of $65.87 billion, it rejects the President’s “go-it-alone” approach to foreign policy and expresses the Committee’s concerns about timely obligation and prudent expenditures. It provides greater distinction between short-term diplomatic, political initiatives and long-term investments in development for which unexpected events should not trigger the conditioning of aid. It also provides enduring funds with transparent accounting for critical Overseas Contingency Operations, or “OCO.”

The bill includes:

  • $47.85 billion in base funding;
  • $8 billion in OCO funding for base requirements that otherwise would not be funded by the President’s budget request; and
  • $10.018 billion in coronavirus emergency funding, the need for which cannot be overstated.

The dire expectations for COVID-19’s impact on our health and economy demand urgent and sustained action.  

To ensure this pandemic does not derail decades of development gains, the bill provides $3.8 billion for development assistance. This includes $975 million to increase access to basic education, of which not less than $150 million shall be spent on girls’ education in areas of conflict.

It also maintains our commitment to addressing food insecurity, improving water and sanitation services, putting an end to trafficking in persons, and promoting other long-term development objectives that support thriving, healthy communities. 

The mark takes a holistic approach to global health programs by bolstering health systems in low- and middle-income countries which face health threats and communicable diseases that we know all too well do not respect borders.

To sustain progress against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, the mark provides $5.93 billion for global HIV/AIDS activities, including $1.56 billion for the Global Fund, and clarifies the U.S. commitment to maintain our 33% share.

It also reverses the President’s Global Gag Rule and stops counterproductive restrictions on family planning and health funding and provides $805.5 million for family planning services, of which $55.5 million is for the United Nations Population Fund.

It also restores funding for the World Health Organization to ensure the U.S. maintains influence in the operations of an organization critical to the development and distribution of vaccines.  

To address policies of the Administration that harm our neighbors beyond our Southern border and drive migration, this legislation amends prior-year appropriations Acts to significantly limit the President’s ability to redirect assistance outside of the region.

It also maintains robust funding for counter-narcotics and law enforcement efforts in Colombia, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean; includes $68 million to address international organized crime; and maintains funding to combat cybercrime.

The mark prioritizes security of diplomatic and development staff with $6.071 billion for embassy security to protect diplomatic and development staff, which is $692.2 million above the President’s request.

It also provides $9 billion for security assistance to key allies and partners with support for programs in Eastern Europe, Jordan, and Tunisia and keeps the commitments of the United States at Camp David to promote peace in the Middle East by providing $3.3 billion in aid for Israel’s security as well as assistance for Egypt.

The bill includes $7.83 billion in refugee and disaster assistance, including to Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. It also restores humanitarian and development assistance to Palestinians to continue the viability of a two-state solution by providing resources to organizations working in the West Bank and Gaza.

I am particularly proud that, as a bipartisan priority, the mark includes $50 million for a new partnership for peace in the Middle East that would strengthen engagement between Palestinians and Israelis through people-to-people programs and promote economic development.

The United States cannot tackle the world’s challenges alone and must reclaim our position of leadership, lest the world become susceptible to the malign influence of actors like Russia and China, who do not share our democratic values.

This bill reaffirms our support for international allies and multilateral organizations, extending the impact of assistance, maximizing taxpayer dollars, and facilitating urgent delivery of aid to mitigate human suffering.

Lastly, to honor our commitment to making the world better for this and future generations, we must combat climate change. The mark supports multilateral efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthens conservation and environment programs, and continues funding for adaptation and renewable energy programs at prior-year levels.

Before I turn to my Ranking Member, Mr. Rogers, for his statement, I’d like to recognize the contributions of Congresswoman Martha Roby -- who also plans to leave the Congress at the end of this term -- to the subcommittee’s work.

I thank staff for efforts on this legislation under difficult circumstances: Susan Adams, the Minority Clerk, Jamie McCormick of the minority staff, and Austin Gage of Ranking Member Rogers’ personal staff; my SFOPS staff including clerk Steve Marchese, Craig Higgins, Erin Kolodjeski, Dean Koulouris, Jason Wheelock, Marin Stein, Jean Kwon, and Clelia Alvarado; and my Congressional staff including Elizabeth Stanley, Kelly Healton, Dana Acton, and Wendy Coursen. All of you – and more former staff and fellows than we have time to name here today – have my heartfelt thanks; my, and this Committee’s achievements, are also yours.

Thank you.


116th Congress