“Regrettably, I get the sense that what I already consider to be a bad bill is going to get much worse in this markup and on the floor. That will simply ensure that this is a one-house bill.” – Congressman Howard L. Berman

Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following opening statement at today’s committee markup of H.R. 2583, Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2012.

Madam Chairman, passing a State Department authorization bill is one of the most important responsibilities of this Committee, and I’m glad that you are making it one of your priorities.

It’s also encouraging to hear that your leadership is insisting that we pass our authorization bill before the appropriators mark up the State/Foreign Ops bill. That’s an important first step in making this committee relevant again.

Having said that, the process that got us to this point leaves much to be desired, and in the end, severely undermines the credibility of this legislation.

As you know, we received a first draft of this on July 6. We appreciate the fact that you agreed to delay the markup by a week, but frankly, two weeks is simply not enough to thoroughly review and vet a bill of this complexity.

That’s especially the case when the text keeps changing and changing. The most egregious example is the title on foreign assistance, which was not added until this past Saturday night. This is no way to run a railroad.

I can’t help pointing out that when this committee last did a State bill two years ago, you, as the Ranking Member, had a draft text two full months before the markup, and the bill was introduced two weeks before committee consideration.

I wish that my concerns about the bill were limited to process. But they are far deeper than that.

I appreciate the fact that the authorization levels for the State Department and certain foreign assistance are more or less the same as in the fiscal year 2011 budget deal.

But I thought the numbers were too low when the deal was passed, and I continue to believe that today.

As our nation’s top military leaders have said repeatedly, diplomacy and development – along with defense – are the key pillars of our national security strategy.

By shortchanging two of the three legs of that national security stool, we undermine our ability to respond to crises, promote stability, and pursue a wide range of U.S. interests around the world.

This will inevitably result in greater reliance on the military, and end up costing us much more in the long run.

Beyond the authorization levels, I have serious concerns about some of the policy provisions in this bill.

On Pakistan, you tie all economic assistance to the certification in Kerry-Lugar that applied to security assistance, toughen the certification, and eliminate the waiver.

I agree that we need to get tough with Pakistan on security assistance, but I fundamentally disagree with your approach on economic aid.

The key to long-term stability in Pakistan, and the only way we’ll ever get Pakistan to change its behavior, is by strengthening its civilian institutions – not weakening them as this bill will do.

I have serious concerns about a number of provisions in the foreign assistance title, and I strongly object to the inclusion of the Global Gag rule – which we just learned about Sunday night

I am also troubled by the authorization level for Peacekeeping account, which will put us back into arrears with the UN, and oppose the cap on funding for the OAS, which will only strengthen the hand of Hugo Chavez.

I could go on and on about other problematic provisions in the bill – and I will during the course of the markup -- but you get the point.

Regrettably, I get the that what I already consider to be a bad bill is going to get much worse in this markup and on the floor.

That will simply ensure that this is a one-house bill.

Madam Chairman, I appreciate your willingness to make some sensible changes in the bill – including tough, but workable, waiver standards for Middle East security assistance, and making technical changes to a number of other provisions.

But in the end, I remain strongly opposed to numerous provisions in the legislation, and I urge my colleagues to vote “no.”