Plan International USA applauds the bi-partisan rejection of cuts to foreign aid during Congressional Hearings this week. Both Republican and Democratic Senators and Representatives expressed dissatisfaction and skepticism while questioning Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the proposed State Department and USAID budget for Fiscal Year 2018. Leading Republicans like Representative Hal Rogers described the proposed cuts as “deeply concerning,” while Senator Bob Corker made it clear that the proposed budget would not be passed in its present form.
As U.S. development programs face a proposed 32 percent budget cut, Democratic Senator Pat Leahy raised concerns about the potential for America to lose influence throughout the world. He said that “as a moral leader, the United States must continue investing in successful programs like PEPFAR so the rest of the world joins us in the promotion of our values.” Looking at the budget as a reflection of the country’s priorities, Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen said he was “concerned about the magnitude of the cuts that suggest America is stepping back from its engagement in the world. I hope that’s not true.” Another leading Republican, Representative Ed Royce, warned that if America steps back, countries with opposing values may step in to fill the vacuum.
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham reiterated that the United States must address development issues or face increases in terrorism later. During another hearing with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Democratic Senator Jack Reed argued that the U.S. should not increase defense spending by cutting development since both are essential.
Several underlined that investing in foreign aid helps America at home. Royce cited the response to Ebola—preventing the epidemic from reaching the United States—as an example of how foreign aid directly impacts Americans. Although some Americans argue that the urgency of the national debt outweighs the benefits of foreign aid, Graham argued that cuts to a program that comprises only 1.4 percent of the budget will have dangerously detrimental effects on American national security and standing in the world, yet make no difference to the national debt. To Graham these cuts seem “penny wise and pound foolish.”
In support of these statements, Plan International USA urges Congress to continue to fund critical development initiatives around the world. U.S. investments in foreign aid are beneficial for the country as a whole and provide a significant value for the American taxpayer.