House Republicans, on Thursday, introduced a spending proposal that would cut U.S. foreign aid expenditures by 26 percent and deny funding to implement the controversial United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.
Starting in October, the bill would allot $17.3 billion for foreign aid, $5.8 billion less than the previous spending bill allowed. The cuts would also affect the State Department, slashing the diplomatic agency’s operating budget by $2.4 billion to $14.6 billion.
House lawmakers say the spending cuts are aimed at eliminating lower-priority diplomatic programs and expenditures that the Federal government simply can’t afford at this time.
“Given all of the country’s needs and fiscal realities, we must prioritize our very limited funds on only the most important international activities,” said the House Appropriations Committee chairman, Representative Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).
The bill prioritizes funding on overseas security efforts, and it would set aside $6.5 billion for war-related costs of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It would also provide full funding for embassy security in the wake of attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts last year, assistance to key foreign allies, programs to promote democracy abroad and help for refugees and other humanitarian efforts.
“We live in a time of uncertainty and instability around the globe, and it is vital to our national security and well-being that the United States maintains an active role in global affairs. However, given all of the country’s needs and fiscal realities, we must prioritize our very limited funds on only the most important international activities. This bill makes these hard choices, maintaining critical missions, diplomatic efforts, and the safety and security of Americans abroad, while cutting lower-priority programs or those that we simply cannot afford at this time,” Rogers said.
The bill also puts tough conditions in place for foreign assistance for Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan and the Palestinians. For example, echoing calls from lawmakers like Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the bill would withhold economic and security assistance if the Egypt government fails to adhere to the peace treaty with Israel or does not meet other conditions in support of Egypt’s democratic transition.
While the bill is full of provisions popular with American conservatives, it’s unlikely that it will ever become law because of objections from State Department and other top Administration officials.
“We are very concerned,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said during a press conference. “These proposed cuts, which would be devastating if put into effect, would hurt our ability to stand up for American interests and values around the world. The U.S. can’t lead if we retreat in this way.”