WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a committee hearing on foreign assistance:
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this hearing.
“Ambassador Green, welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Thank you for your leadership and service. I have no shortage of disagreements with this Administration, but I’ll give credit where credit is due: you were a great choice to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“When you briefed our committee members a few weeks ago, I got a clear sense that you understand why development is so important—that the investments we make in these efforts pay huge dividends—that USAID’s work advances American values, promotes economic prosperity, and improves lives around the globe.
“These aren’t just nice things to do. They’re integral to promoting our security. Healthier, more productive societies, governments that respect the rule of law and transparency, countries that are strong, fair leaders in their regions—all these help us to advance our interests around the world. They deny our enemies the opportunities to exploit vulnerable people and find safe havens in lawless areas—because poverty and lack of opportunity create hotbeds for instability and violence.
“Ambassador Green, you’ve been a member of this congressional body, as a Member of Congress, our ambassador to Tanzania, President of the International Republican Institute, Director at the United States Global Leadership Coalition, Board member of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and now you're our top official dealing with development. You’ve seen up close what a difference development assistance makes.
“You’ve seen how our development initiatives help countries lift themselves up, how they prevent crises and conflicts before they start, how they put within touch ends to global health pandemics, like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. As I said, I think you’re a great pick for this job, Ambassador Green. But with a 33 percent cut to USAID’s budget, there’s no one I believe who could do your job effectively.
“This budget would undermine everything I mentioned earlier that contributes to our country’s security. And frankly, it’s just heartless.
“Food for Peace: zeroed out. Development Assistance: cut by 42 percent. Humanitarian programs: down by 34 percent. Basic Education: 53 percent—more than half. And Democracy and governance programs: a 41 percent cut from last year’s mark. And beyond just the numbers, dangerous policies like the global gag rule are doing real harm. This medieval approach to women’s health is causing clinics to close, blocking access to HIV tests, and denying women and girls basic health care from doctors and nurses they trust.
“It just isn’t possible to keep making progress on our international development priorities if we slash the budget by a third. This proposal represents another step in America’s withdrawal from the world at a time when our leadership is needed more than ever. Fortunately, it’s been clear since the Administration submitted its budget last year that there’s bipartisan opposition to these drastic cuts which would undermine our role on the global stage.
“There are simply too many challenges where America can make a difference. The four famines, the Rohingya crises in Burma and Bangladesh, Venezuelan refugees fleeing to Colombia and Brazil, and the ongoing horror in Syria. These are areas where USAID’s expertise is desperately needed—and where this budget would hamper our ability to provide desperately needed assistance.
“And as a reminder, USAID accounts for roughly one half of one percent of the total federal budget. So arguments that we can’t afford it just don’t fly with me—especially after the President signed a tax bill that blows a trillion-and-a-half-dollar hole in the budget.
“Finally, Ambassador, I know, as well, that you are proposing a lot of reforms at USAID. I just want to ensure that any changes are done to modernize American development and make it work better—not simply starting with a budget number and downsizing to fit it. I thank you very much for consulting with our Committee, and I encourage you to continue a dialogue so that we can be part of this process.
“And I thank you again for your service and your time. At times we’ve met, I really have a good feeling with you at the helm. So thank you again for your service and your time today. I yield back, Mr. Chairman.”
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