The Cable

House panel cuts $4 billion from State and foreign aid budget

A House subcommittee cut $4 billion from the president’s $56.7 billion request for State Department and foreign operations money in a bill unveiled yesterday, in another setback to the Obama administration’s efforts to increase the funding available for diplomacy and development abroad. The $4 billion cut was first proposed by Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent ...

A House subcommittee cut $4 billion from the president’s $56.7 billion request for State Department and foreign operations money in a bill unveiled yesterday, in another setback to the Obama administration’s efforts to increase the funding available for diplomacy and development abroad.

The $4 billion cut was first proposed by Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad, D-ND, who unveiled a budget resolution in April that sacrificed State Department and foreign aid funding for domestic priorities. Conrad’s cuts elicited howls of protest from leading members of the national-security and development communities, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, all of the other former secretaries of state, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, Senate Foreign Relations head John Kerry, D-MA, and even Bono.

But then, Congress decided it wasn’t going to enact a budget resolution this year at all, meaning that there were no firm caps to which individual committees could adhere. So, problem solved, right? Not by a long shot.

House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, D-WI, the same guy who is holding up the supplemental war funding, gave instructions to Foreign Operations subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey, D-NY, that she should meet the number specified by Conrad’s resolution anyway.

So Lowey’s bill comes in at $52.7 billion, matching exactly what Conrad would have wanted. The cuts were spread around various accounts.

Of course, Congress isn’t likely to pass a foreign ops appropriations bill at all this year. Congressional insiders expect what’s called a "continuing resolution," which is a catch-all bill that funds the entire government at basically even levels, with some exceptions, until the new Congress comes in and cleans up the mess.

Meanwhile, Lowey’s bill doen’t fund any of the administration’s requests for activities in Afghanistan. On Monday, she put out a statement saying that she could no longer in good conscience support civilian funding for Hamid Karzai‘s government because the reports of corruption showed that the taxpayer dollars weren’t being well spent.

She said she would not appropriate money for Afghanistan "until I have confidence that U.S. taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords, and terrorists."

What happens next for the Afghanistan money, which is meant to fund health programs, counternarcotics programs, military officer training, and so on, is unclear. Lowey said she will hold hearings on Afghan corruption this month and then decide what to do.

Lowey’s statement can be found here, and a chart showing which accounts got whacked is here.

 Twitter: @joshrogin
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