Diaz-Balart Remarks at FY24 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill Full Committee Markup

Jul 12, 2023

Thank you very much, Madam Chairwoman.

I am pleased to present the fiscal year 2024 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill to the full committee for consideration and for approval. 

I want to thank Chairwoman Granger for her leadership to get us to this point in the process. I also want to recognize her previous chairmanship and leadership of this subcommittee, as well as the Chairman Emeritus and my friend, Hal Rogers.

I want to acknowledge Ranking Member Lee. While we may not see eye-to-eye on most issues, I know she cares deeply about the programs funded in this bill, and I look forward to continuing to work with her as this process moves forward.

Finally, I want to thank the Members of the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee on both sides of the aisle for their meaningful engagement during this budget process.

This bill was developed over many months through a careful and thorough review of the organizations and programs that receive U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Among the factors considered were whether we could see demonstrated results, how much funding was still available, and whether the investments were something most Americans support.

There were two even more important issues I considered within every decision in this bill—our national debt and our national security. 

The State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill before us today totals $52.5 billion in new budget authority, which is a cut of $7.2 billion, or 12 percent reduction, from the fiscal year 2023 enacted level and $16.4 billion, or 24 percent, below the President’s request. This amount is offset by an $11.1 billion rescission of partisan, wasteful spending, resulting in new net spending of only $41.4 billion.  

If you’ve read the bill, you know it reflects a significantly different approach, but it is also straightforward. If you are a friend or an ally of the United States, this bill supports you. If you are an adversary or are cozying up to our adversaries, then frankly, you will not like this bill.

Organizations that advance freedom and deliver results favorable to American interests are supported. Organizations that elevate human rights abusers, conspire with autocrats, reject transparency, and tolerate anti-Semitic sentiment do not merit support.

The measure before you addresses the national security threat to the United States posed by the Chinese Communist Party and responds in an unprecedented manner. This bill provides $4.4 billion to counter the malign influence of the People’s Republic of China, which is $1 billion above the President’s request.

Within this funding, a top priority is supporting Taiwan’s security needs. For the first time, this bill provides a direct appropriation of $500 million in Foreign Military Financing grants to help democratic Taiwan deter PRC coercion and aggression.

Let's be clear, the United States must get serious about the malign, destabilizing actions of Communist China around the world, including in our own hemisphere. That’s why this bill strengthens efforts to counter this encroaching threat, while also including new safeguards to prevent taxpayer dollars from supporting the Chinese Communist Party.

Directly tied to our national security is support for other key allies. The bill provides unwavering support of our democratic ally, Israel, and fully funds the United States-Israel Memorandum of Understanding by providing $3.3 billion in security assistance.

The bill provides full support to two other vital security partners in the region—Egypt and Jordan. It also includes a new prohibition on funding for any nuclear agreement with Iran until, it is not that dramatic, such an agreement is submitted to Congress and ratified by the Senate.

Another priority in this bill, which impacts all Americans, is to combat the trafficking of opioids and, in particular, fentanyl.

Everyone on this Committee knows the effects of fentanyl in our districts, our neighborhoods, and our schools. This insidious drug is finding new paths to kill our young people and must be stopped. The migration crisis at the southern border is symptomatic of this Administration’s lack of a clear strategy towards the Western Hemisphere.

For too long, countries in our own hemisphere have been rewarded despite cozying up to our adversaries, and this bill puts a stop to it. The United States must focus more attention and provide resources to meet the challenges and opportunities in the region, including to support like-minded countries such as Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Panama. 

Let me turn to Colombia. The importance of the United States partnership with Colombia cannot be understated. For decades, the U.S. has partnered with and supported the people of Colombia in building a thriving and stable democracy, and I have been one of the strongest supporters of those efforts. 

Unfortunately, the current trajectory of Colombia under President Petro’s leadership is increasingly at odds with American security and economic interests. Therefore, I have decided to defer funding for Colombia.

Because of the strong and historic relationship between the people of our two countries, the Committee will continue to assess the actions of the Petro Government as the appropriations process moves forward.

More broadly, this Committee recognizes the growing threat of authoritarian regimes around the world. Therefore, the bill fully funds democracy assistance accounts in support of freedom and human rights where they are most threatened.

The timing of today’s markup is significant. Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the historic uprising by the people of Cuba demanding on thing - freedom.

In recognition of this ongoing pursuit of freedom, the bill includes $30 million for democracy programs in Cuba, and it also restores critical funding for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. This program has been drastically reduced in recent years while funding for broadcasting in the rest of the world received annual increases. This bill rebalances those investments. 

I am proud that both of these programs were requested on a bipartisan basis, and I believe it sends a very strong message as we mark the two-year anniversary of the pro-democracy protests.

Before discussing funding for the United Nations, I want to be sure Members of this Committee know who’s running the show there. It would be hard to even make this up, but remarkably, it’s true. 

  • Russia was Chair of the U.N. Security Council during the month of April;
  • Iran will be the next Vice President of the U.N. General Assembly;
  • Communist China, whose genocide against the Uighurs is raging, and Cuba, one of the world’s oldest and most brutal dictatorships, sits on the U.N. Human Rights Council; and
  • North Korea, which is an appallingly irresponsible, terrorist state that starves its people, is now the newest member of the World Health Organization.

While the world’s worst human rights abusers ascend in U.N. bodies, Israel routinely faces biased and unjustified attacks and is undermined across the U.N. system.  

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that no funds are included in this bill for the U.N. regular budget. The ineffectiveness and egregious failures of the United Nations and U.N. bodies is counter to the goals and priorities of this bill, and they do not merit the support of the American people.   

Over the last several years, we have witnessed a huge boondoggle of climate change spending that will have no measurable impact on lowering temperatures, and this bill provides a much-needed course correction.

It prohibits funds for the Green Climate Fund, the Clean Technology Fund, and a new fund that the Administration inexplicably agreed to last year putting the American taxpayer on the hook to pay so-called “climate damages” to other countries. 

The bill also puts a stop to counterproductive climate policies that place a straitjacket on energy and economic growth in developing countries. These policies leave countries unable to support themselves, more dependent on foreign aid, and throws the door wide open for Communist China.

Along with this wasteful spending, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change takes an awful lot of taxpayer-funded trips to high-profile events—be it coronations, royal weddings, or other super exclusive events all over the world.   

To address this and other frivolous expansions of bureaucracy, the bill eliminates funding for special envoys and special representatives that are not authorized, or not Senate confirmed. If they are that important have them authorized or Senate confirmed.

The bill puts new emphasis on advancing American economic interests abroad and prioritizing consular services to reduce the passport backlog. This problem is no longer a mere inconvenience as it is impacting millions of Americans seeking to travel internationally.

Finally, and most importantly, this bill includes all longstanding pro-life protections, which includes a prohibition on all taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions and builds on those requirements by applying the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy to all global health funding. The bill also prohibits funding for the U.N. Population Fund.

It's not surprising that after this bill was released, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle immediately condemned it. What should surprise all of us is what the minority, in their press release, is outraged about.

Their press release expresses concern that the bill prohibits funding for “the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Eco Health Alliance, gain of function research, and any lab controlled by China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela.” I am quoting from their press release. These countries are the official list of United States foreign adversaries, and three are state sponsors of terrorism. Does anyone want foreign aid going to a lab in these places, really? 

The press release also expresses concerns with the “partisan riders” that specifically highlight the prohibition on funds to the Government of the PRC or the Chinese Communist Party and prevents lending from International Financial Institutions to the PRC. I’m not easily shocked, but I am still in disbelief that the minority could think, under any scenario, that foreign aid should support the Communist Chinese Party. 

Before closing, I want to express my appreciation for the work of the staff. 

From the majority staff, I want to thank the clerk, Susan Adams, and her team Craig Higgins, Clelia Alvarado, Jamie McCormick, Trey Hicks, Meg Gallagher, Alex Sutton, John Muscolini, and Joe Cutler. From my personal office, I want to thank Cesar Gonzales, Giselle Reynolds, and Autumn Morley.

From the minority staff, I also want to thank Erin Kolodjeski, Laurie Mignon, and Lilian Waverly. We really appreciate all of your hard work.