This was a vote on am amendment offered by Rep. Culberson (R-TX) to the bill appropriating fiscal year 2010 funds for the State Department and its foreign operations. The amendment would have reduced the amounts in the bill for international political, military and economic organizations, including the U.N., back to their fiscal year 2009 levels plus inflation. Participation by the U.S. in these multilateral organizations are intended to advance U.S. strategic goals by addressing challenges that require international consultation and coordination.
Culberson’s argument in favor of his amendment was based on the idea that “if we have a financial downturn . . . in the private sector (you) understand that you start to cut expenses. The first thing to go . . . is discretionary dollars . . . and the United States of America is in a similar situation. The nation is hurting. Unemployment is climbing. We have lost a record number of jobs. Under the new liberal leadership of this Congress, our new liberal administration in the White House, this Congress, this President has spent more money in less time than any Congress in the history of the United States . . . So those of us in the fiscally conservative minority have offered (amendments) . . . to cut 5 percent; 1 percent; 10 percent. On every bill on every occasion, we have searched for some way, somehow that the liberal majority might try to save some of our kids' money.”
Culberson also said he would have preferred, “as a fiscal conservative, to cut far more at this time of record debt, record deficit, of increasing unemployment; but we want to give the liberal majority some opportunity to cut somewhere. He concluded by asking “(A)nd if we will not cut foreign multilateral assistance simply by keeping the level of funding at last year's level . . . where will we cut?”
Rep. Lowey (D-NY), the chair of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 3081, opposed the amendment. She said that she recognized it was “quite easy in a time of fiscal belt tightening to offer an amendment to reduce funding for the international financial institutions, but I would encourage my colleagues to recognize that voting in favor of this amendment has serious consequences to U.S. interests.”
Among the consequences she listed were reduced funding for the Asian Development Fund, “which provides basic loans and grants to support health care, education, infrastructure and economic development resources for Afghanistan and Pakistan”; reduced funding for The World Bank, “which provides debt relief to developing countries, (and) is supporting an integrated agricultural initiative to address the global food crisis”; and undermining the ability of the United States to meet its commitments to global debt relief efforts and to countries around the world that rely on our assistance.” Lowey concluded by saying that the spending levels in the bill are “in the interest of our national security. These (supported) institutions fund valuable initiatives that provide opportunities to millions of people.”
Rep. Frank (D-MA) also opposed the amendment. He argued that “alleviating poverty overseas . . . is a far better use of our money morally and also in terms of national security because I repeat again what (Defense) Secretary Gates and what (former Secretary of State and Joint Chiefs Chairman) Powell have said, what sensible military leaders have said, a much smaller amount of money spent in these ways on sensible efforts to alleviate the miserable conditions that lead to support for terrorism, not the terrorists themselves, is a very good way to preserve the national security much more cheaply in terms of human lives and in terms of money than a purely military solution.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 174-256. One hundred and sixty-four Republicans and ten Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-four Democrats and twelve Republicans, voted “nay”. As a result, the funds in the State Department funding bill for the 2010 fiscal year for international political, military and economic organizations were not reduced.