This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Buyer (R-IN) to the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funds for the State Department and its foreign operations. The amendment would have reduced funding for diplomatic and consular programs by $1.2 billion, for global health efforts by $670 million, and for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) by $330 million. The resulting figures would reduce the funding for these three categories back to their 2009 fiscal year levels.
Rep. Buyer began his remarks in support of the amendment by saying that “Americans are feeling the burden of a shrinking economy, empty pocketbooks and also economic uncertainty. What is clear is that the American people are hurting and that we are continuing to lose jobs. I believe the American people know we cannot tax and spend nor bail our way out to a growing economy. So what are we doing here today? We are continuing this practice of reckless spending.” He then noted that the figures in the fiscal year 2010 bill represent a 33% increase from the equivalent 2008 fiscal year levels. Buyer said he had “great respect for the men and women that represent our country in Foreign Service abroad . . . They deserve the best the Nation can provide to them. What I oppose is the continued habit of reckless and seemingly endless spending that this bill represents.”
Rep. Lowey (D-NY), the chair of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 3081, opposed the amendment. She referred to the comments of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, former Secretary of State Rice, and Secretary of Defense Gates “that the State Department and USAID have to start leading U.S. Government efforts to address the global threats of the 21st century, including preventing and responding to conflict. As our new administration sets priorities, develops strategies and creates greater efficiencies and harmony in our foreign policy, this requires an expansion of people and resources.” Lowey argued that the proposed cuts in the amendment “strike at the very heart of the bill's efforts to strengthen our civilian capacity. This amendment would have a devastating impact on USAID and the Department of State's ability to carry out their diplomatic, development, and reconstruction mission.”
Lowey noted, specifically, that the effect of the amendment would be to “halt support for over 200 existing personnel, including in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan, putting the U.S. Government missions in those countries in jeopardy . . . (and) stop the construction of secure and safe facilities for USAID employees in nearly 30 countries overseas and halt the hiring of 350 new Foreign Service officers as planned in the development leadership initiative which is intended to rebuild the civilian development workforce.”
She also argued that “USAID is a global leader on health, and the proposed cuts would hamper their ability to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The proposed cut in this amendment could result in 18.3 million women being without access to voluntary family planning services, which could lead to an estimated 5.5 million additional unintended pregnancies, 300,000 additional under-5 deaths per year and 15,000 additional maternal deaths per year, and approximately 800,000 people in four high-burden countries going hungry.”
Rep. Buyer responded by referring to the term “jeopardy'' that Rep. Lowey had used. He said: “(T)hat is exactly what Congress is doing to America's economy if we do not get our fiscal house in order. This isn't my quote; this is the Office of Management and Budget's. In May, the Office projected that if we continue this type of spending, the Federal debt will grow to $23.3 trillion in 2019.”
The vote on the amendment was 156-271. One hundred and fifty Republicans and six Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-six Democrats and twenty-five Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the amendment was defeated and the proposed reductions were not made in the 2010 fiscal year funding bill for the State Department.