Diaz-Balart Remarks at FY24 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Bill Markup
The Subcommittee will come to order.
I’d like to welcome everyone to today’s subcommittee markup of the fiscal year 2024 appropriations bill for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.
At the outset, I would like to ask my colleagues for their indulgence, as my opening statement is longer than normal to explain the changes in this year’s bill.
I want to thank Chairwoman Granger for her leadership and commend her for the substantial work it has taken to get to this point. I also want to recognize her previous leadership of this subcommittee, as well as the Chairman Emeritus and my friend, Hal Rogers.
I also want to acknowledge Ranking Member Lee. While we may not see eye-to-eye on most issues, I know you care deeply about these topics, and I look forward to continuing to work with you as this process moves forward.
Finally, I want to thank each of the Members of this Subcommittee whose meaningful input during our budget hearings is greatly appreciated.
Those engagements, requests from Members, and a thorough scrubbing of the organizations and programs funded in this bill were key factors in developing the measure before you. There were two even more important issues I considered within every decision—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 from fiscal year 2023 enacted and $16.4 billion below the President’s fiscal year 2024 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 than previous bills, but it is pretty 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, frankly, then you will not like this bill. Organizations that advance freedom and deliver results favorable to America are supported. Organizations that elevate human rights abusers, conspire with autocrats, reject transparency, and tolerate anti-Semitic sentiment do not merit support.
I want to mention a few 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.
It also takes bold, new action to definitively address the anti-Israel bias at the United Nations and anti-Israel actions at the International Court of Justice.
The bill recognizes two other vital security partners in the region by providing full support to Egypt and Jordan. It also includes a new prohibition on funding for any nuclear agreement with Iran until such an agreement is submitted to Congress and ratified by the Senate.
We all recognize the national security threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party. 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.
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.
It encourages investments for nearshoring, so that critical supply chains are brought closer to the United States and Americans are not dependent on the PRC for essential needs.
Another priority in this bill, and for 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 insidious new paths to kill our young people and must be stopped. Funding directed in this bill will strengthen efforts in countries that counter fentanyl production and trafficking.
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 cozying up to our adversaries have been rewarded, 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 our own backyard, including to support like-minded countries such as Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Panama.
Now, 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 United States security and economic interests. Therefore, I have decided to defer funding for Colombia. Because of the strong and historic relationship between the people of the United States and Colombia, as well as the Colombian Armed Forces and Police, the Committee will continue to assess the actions of the Petro Government as the appropriations process moves forward. I sincerely hope more favorable actions in the future will allow us to move forward in further strengthening our longstanding partnership with Colombia.
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.
As the two-year anniversary approaches of the historic uprising by the people of Cuba to demand freedom, the bill restores critical funding for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. This program has been cut drastically in recent years while funding for broadcasting in the rest of the world received annual increases. This bill rebalances those investments.
The bill also includes $30 million for democracy programs in Cuba. I am proud that both of these programs were requested on a bipartisan basis, and I believe it sends a strong message as we approach the anniversary of the pro-democracy protests.
Before discussing funding for the United Nations, let’s consider who’s running the show—
- Russia was Chair of the UN Security Council during the month of April;
- Iran will be the next Vice President of the UN General Assembly;
- China, where a genocide against the Uighurs (WEE-GURS) is raging, and Cuba, one of the world’s oldest brutal dictatorships, sit on the UN Human Rights Council; and
- North Korea is the newest member of the World Health Organization.
It would be hard to even make this up, but remarkably, it’s true. This is taking place while Israel is routinely attacked and undermined across the entire UN system, while the world’s worst human rights abusers remain relatively untouched.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that no funds are included in this bill for the UN regular budget. The ineffectiveness and egregious failures of the United Nations and UN bodies do not merit support based on the goals and priorities of this bill, and of the American people.
Over the last several years, we have witnessed a boondoggle of climate change spending, and our bill provides a much-needed course correction in several key areas. It prohibits funds for the Green Climate Fund and other climate financing and requires a GAO study on climate funding, which I predict will demonstrate that billions of taxpayer funds had no measurable impact on climate change.
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 open for Communist China.
Amidst this wasteful spending, I would also point out that the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change takes an awful lot of taxpayer-funded trips just to high-profile events—be it coronations, royal weddings, or other soirées in elite capitals of 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 Senate confirmed.
The bill puts new emphasis on advancing U.S. economic interests by promoting American businesses abroad, increasing efforts to resolve commercial disputes, and prioritizing consular services to reduce the passport backlog. This problem is no longer a mere inconvenience but 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 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 promotes American values by restoring funding for religious freedom programs abroad and supports faith-based organizations that are helping to deliver United States foreign assistance.
Before turning to Ranking Member Lee, 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, Meghan Gallagher, Trey Hicks, Alex Sutton, John Muscolini, and Joe Cutler. From my personal office, I also want to thank Cesar Gonzales. Giselle Reynolds, and Autumn Morley.
From the minority staff, I want to thank Erin Kolodjeski, Laurie Mignon, and Lilian Waverly.
We appreciate all of your help.