Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today delivered the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on the Trump Administration’s FY2021 foreign assistance budget request:
"Welcome, Mr. Barsa. I’m glad that some administration officials still consider it important to appear before Congress and answer questions. It’s like spotting a unicorn.
"Pursuant to notice, the committee is convened today to hear testimony on the Trump Administration’s foreign assistance budget request for 2021 Fiscal Year.
"Your predecessor, Administrator Green, and I didn’t agree on everything, but he did a good and serious job, and I know that he did value the importance of foreign assistance as a tool of American foreign policy. But whatever Mr. Green personally felt, it certainly didn’t align with the Trump Administration’s views, which we’ve seen again and again in the budgets the administration has sent up to Congress.
"A budget request is a lot more than numbers on a page. It’s a statement of values and priorities. And the Trump Administration’s values and priorities say that we should cut our international affairs budget by roughly a quarter, that we should cut funding for global health, that we should cut food aid, that we should cut democracy assistance.
"Frankly, it’s what we’ve come to expect from this White House. And after three-and-a-half exhausting years of this, we’ve all heard the administration’s message loud and clear. And the message is: we don’t care. We don’t care about the good that our development efforts do all around the world. We don’t care about the people and communities that benefit from this work. We don’t care about the harm done to American leadership when we pull back from the global stage. We don’t care about the people who work at USAID. And we don’t care about Congress, which has resoundingly rejected every budget that you’ve sent up—and which we will again.
"We get it. This starts at the top and we all understand this President. One of the reasons I think foreign assistance is so important is that it’s a reflection of our country’s compassion and generosity—the character of America that’s at the heart of our foreign policy when we’re at our best.
"The President doesn’t think that way. He doesn’t look back on things like Lend-Lease, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, or PEPFAR as the hallmarks of strong global leadership. This is a President who praised the Chinese Government’s tactics after Tiananmen, who fawns over strongmen and dictators, who writes off most of a continent using a term that I won’t repeat here.
"So we know what to expect at this point. We know to expect a 50 percent cut to family planning, because the administration’s radical crusade against women’s health says that it’s better for women and girls to die than to have access to reproductive services. We know to expect reduced assistance to Central America, because the administration’s radical anti-immigrant agenda says we should scapegoat desperate people rather than get at the root causes of migration.
"But what’s especially galling about this year’s budget is that even in the middle of a global pandemic—one that has come at the cost of nearly 150,000 American lives—the administration wants to slash funding for global health efforts.
"The slight increase requested for global health security is overshadowed by massive proposed cuts elsewhere. Taken with the administration’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization—which, despite its flaws, is the international body best equipped to coordinate a global response to COVID-19—it’s almost as though we’re waving the white flag.
"So Mr. Barsa, I’m afraid you’re going to run into quite a bit of skepticism today as you try to make the case for this evisceration of our foreign assistance budget. I think we’re also going to need answers from you about a number of troubling management decisions you’ve made since taking over for Administrator Green."
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