The Cable

Berman stands up for foreign aid funding

House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Howard Berman (D-CA) is supporting calls from the Obama administration to keep State and foreign aid funding out of the hands of GOP budget slashers in Congress. Berman’s latest remarks come on the heels of a Jan. 20 call for drastic defunding of the U.S. Agency for International Development ...

House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Howard Berman (D-CA) is supporting calls from the Obama administration to keep State and foreign aid funding out of the hands of GOP budget slashers in Congress.

Berman’s latest remarks come on the heels of a Jan. 20 call for drastic defunding of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by the 165-member Republican Study Group. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah warned Congress of the national security risks of defunding USAID in an exclusive interview with The Cable on Jan. 21.

"I rise in opposition to the rule, which provides for consideration of a resolution to reduce what is being called "non-security" spending to 2008 levels," Berman said in remarks today, which were submitted into the Congressional record and which he excerpted on the House floor.

The budget resolution, which is being brought by Republican leadership in advance of Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, would mandate that all "non-security" accounts be cut to fiscal 2008 levels when the current stopgap funding measure expires on March 4.

The GOP defines "non-security" to mean all spending besides funds devoted to defense, homeland security, military construction, and veterans. The administration and some in Congress want to add diplomacy and development to that list.

The budget resolution "sends a very damaging message that the Congress will not stand up to protect those programs that are absolutely essential to jobs and the economy," Berman said. "It also rejects a key principle that military leaders and presidents of both parties have clearly recognized: Foreign assistance and diplomacy are essential to United States national security."

Berman made a case for the role of U.S. economic and diplomatic capabilities in winning the war on terror. He also noted that Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, and ISAF commander Gen. David Petraeus have all come out in favor of increasing funding for foreign operations.

"The message from our military leadership, this Congress, and even former President Bush is clear: U.S. civilian agencies must be fully resourced to prosecute the fight against terror effectively," Berman said. "A cut to the budget harms U.S. national security and puts American lives at risk."

Berman failed to move forward his legislation on reforming foreign aid when he was chairman — but funding did go up for fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010. Now, with the State Department taking on new responsibilities in Iraq and USAID playing a large role in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he is arguing that gains in those countries, as well as U.S. standing in the world, hangs in the balance.

"We all remember the period when the United States tried to go it alone, unwilling to cooperate with other countries and demonstrate global leadership," Berman said. "We’ve finally begun to turn that all around.  Let’s not go back to the bad old days when the U.S. turned away from the rest of the world, and lost so much of its influence and respect."

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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