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

2020-07-06 16:00

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

Good afternoon, everyone.  The Subcommittee will come to order.

This is a bittersweet moment for me, as it is my last subcommittee markup of the State and Foreign operations bill. Contemplating my retirement at the end of this year, I ask you to indulge me in a few reflections.

First, the important work of this Subcommittee: Since World War II, foreign aid has been a key component of United States foreign policy.

The billions we allocate to the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other federal agencies tasked with carrying out American interests in promoting freedom and democracy throughout the world account for only roughly one percent of our federal budget. Yet we have made the world better, safer and healthier while improving the security of generations here at home. 

We have supported the near eradication of polio and stemmed the scourge of HIV/AIDS. We have increased access to health services so that fewer mothers must walk for hours to get wellness checks for themselves and their babies.

We have helped individuals, communities, and countries recover following natural disasters and provided support for vulnerable migrants and those displaced by wars and famines.

We have intervened to relieve suffering from atrocities in the Balkans and Darfur.

We have advanced equity and opportunity for women, so that they, their children, and their communities might prosper.

As I have often said, education is the single greatest force multiplier in foreign aid, contributing to many of our other successes.

That is why I am particularly proud of the record levels of U.S. assistance for basic education for more than 80 million children around the world, especially girls, as well as for international family planning.

And because of all these and other priorities we have advocated together, our own children and grandchildren are safer.

September 11th was the darkest day of my career as too many of my constituents lost loved ones and some even perished on the sacred ground where the Twin Towers once touched the sky.

Similar to the reality we face today with coronavirus, in the wake of that tragedy, our nation reawakened to the stark truth that circumstances and events half a world away can dramatically influence the well-being and security of Americans here at home.

It has been my honor to work with all of you, from a common belief in the absolute necessity of effective diplomacy and global engagement as well as robust development assistance to protect our own national security even as we address moral imperatives beyond our own borders.

Secondly, bipartisanship: This Subcommittee has worked collegially, in the best interests of the American people, during all my nearly three decades as a member.

I want to express my particular appreciation for the leadership of former Chairs Hal Rogers, Kay Granger, and Jim Kolbe with whom I have enjoyed working.

Mr. Rogers, the bill we consider today is stronger for your insights and input on shared, bipartisan priorities.

And thirdly, a personal note: When I faced the difficult choice of being the Ranking Member on this subcommittee or the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee, I bucked conventional wisdom in Washington.

As passionately as I feel about the work on Labor-H, and despite its many billions more dollars, my heart is in the work of this subcommittee, and I will dearly miss it as well as my partnership with all of you.  

But our work is not done yet, so I’d like now to share highlights of what’s in the bill and note that I’ve worked hard to accommodate most member requests.

Given the quick timeline to get this bill to the floor, I request that any amendments be reserved until the bill is considered by the full committee.

With a total of $65.87 billion, the House bill rejects the President’s “go-it-alone” approach to foreign policy and expresses the Committee’s concerns about the timely obligation and prudent expenditure of resources.

To ensure that unexpected events do not trigger the conditioning of aid, thereby leaving intended beneficiaries vulnerable, this bill provides greater distinction between short-term diplomatic and political initiatives and long-term investments in development.

It also provides Overseas Contingency Operations, or “OCO,” under account headings with enduring funds to offer a transparent accounting of the true resources needed to fund United States foreign policy and advance national security interests.

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 emergency funding to address COVID-19, which has claimed more than 125,000 American lives and 500,000 worldwide, cannot be overstated.

In fact, the dire expectations for its impact on Americans’ health and our economy demand that the Administration and the Senate come to the table to consider these urgent funds –and the Heroes Act the House passed in May – immediately. 

In addition to addressing immediate COVID-19 needs, the mark takes a holistic approach to global health, and seeks to accelerate the strengthening of health systems in low- and middle-income countries to manage health threats and communicable diseases, which we know all too well do not respect borders.

To help 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 maintaining our 33% share.

It also reverses the President’s Global Gag Rule and stops counterproductive restrictions on family planning and health funding while including $805.5 million for family planning services, of which $55.5 million is for the United Nations Population Fund, to ensure that millions of women can access critically needed health care.

As this Committee seeks to ensure the impact of COVID-19 does not derail development gains over the past several decades, the mark 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 while strengthening our own national security. 

This requires addressing unique challenges from bad actors who seek to disrupt our democracy via digital means to fortifying security capabilities to prevent regional conflicts from generating international crises.

To address the harmful policies of the Administration that perpetuate the challenges and increase migration to our Southern border, this legislation amends prior-year appropriations acts to significantly limit the Administration’s ability to redirect assistance outside of the region.

It maintains robust funding for counter-narcotics and law enforcement efforts for our neighbors in Colombia, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

The mark includes $68 million to address international organized crime and maintains funding to combat cybercrime.

It provides a total of $9 billion for security assistance to key allies and partners and maintains strong support for programs in Eastern Europe, Jordan, and Tunisia.

The bill keeps the commitments of the United States at Camp David in 1979 to promote peace in the Middle East by providing $3.3 billion in aid for Israel’s security as well as assistance for Egypt.

Additionally, the mark prioritizes the security of diplomatic and development staff and the facilities where they work with $6.071 billion for embassy security, which is $692.2 million above the President’s request.

The United States cannot tackle the world’s challenges alone. We work best when we work together.  The Unites States must reclaim its leadership role on the global front, lest the world become susceptible to malign influence from actors like Russia and China, who do not share our democratic values.

That is why the mark reaffirms our support for international allies and multilateral organizations, which extends the impact of our assistance, maximizes taxpayer dollars, and facilitates delivery of aid where it is needed urgently to mitigate human suffering.

To support these efforts, the bill includes $7.83 billion in refugee and disaster assistance, including to Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

The mark also seeks to restore humanitarian and development assistance to the 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 to fund a new partnership for peace in the Middle East that would promote economic development while strengthening engagement between Palestinians and Israelis through people-to-people programs and economic ventures.

As we seek to address ongoing and anticipated humanitarian needs, we look to combat a persistent threat that drives migration and conflict that can destabilize regions: climate change.

The mark provides funds in this and prior Acts to support multilateral efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also strengthens conservation and environment programs and continues funding for adaptation and renewable energy programs at prior-year levels.

These points reflect just a few highlights of the bill and report, which I urge you to read thoroughly. 

Before I turn to my Ranking Member, Mr. Rogers for his statement, I’d like to express my appreciation to Congresswoman Martha Roby for her service on this subcommittee as she also plans to leave the Congress at the end of this year.  Your dedication to the rights of women in Afghanistan, and gender programs like WGDP will live on in this bill.  I also want to recognize the staff who have worked remotely to prepare the bill.

I want to thank Susan Adams, the Minority Clerk, Jamie McCormick of the minority staff, and Austin Gage of Ranking Member Rogers’ personal staff, as well as my SFOPS staff including clerk Steve Marchese, Craig Higgins, Erin Kolodjeski, Dean Koulouris, Jason Wheelock, Marin Stein, Jean Kwon, and Clelia Alvarado. 

I also thank Wendy Coursen, Kelly Healton, Dana Acton, and Elizabeth Stanley on my staff and express my gratitude to past staff members and fellows who supported my work on the subcommittee: Matt Traub, Beth Tritter, Howard Wolfson, Clare Coleman, Jean Doyle, Jenny Luray, Scott Fleming, Mark Isaac, Sharon Levin, Jim Townsend, Chris Bigelow, Lucy Heenan, Ann Vaughn, Talia Dubovi, Liz Leibowitz, Sonali Korde, Joe Weinstein, Mark Lopez, Megan Oates, Jennifer Munoz, Karen Larson, Ashley Quarcoo, Ralph Falzone, Mark Murray, Nisha Biswal, Michele Sumilas, Michael Marek, and Mark Carrato.

My heartfelt thanks to all of my past and current staff; this Committee’s achievements are also yours.

Thank you for indulging me.

116th Congress