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Public Statements

Proposed Cuts to Foreign Aid

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ROTHMAN of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, the Republican side of the aisle, have suggested that America would be better off if we cut out foreign aid.

In my opinion, there could be nothing further from the truth, Mr. Speaker. Cutting foreign aid from the United States to our allies and others we want to work with around the world is vital to the U.S.'s national security.

I'll say it again. Our foreign aid that we give out, which, by the way, what's the percentage of foreign aid in our budget compared to the whole budget? It's 1 percent. It's actually less than 1 percent. Some people think it's 20 or 30 percent. It's less than 1 percent of our whole budget. And what do we do with that foreign aid? We make alliances with trading partners. We make alliances with strategic military partners all over the world. I think most Americans understand we still live in a very dangerous world and we need allies and friends and partners.

By the way, what does that foreign aid budget include? It includes money for embassies and diplomats, interpreters. Now, would we be better off in a big complex, interconnected, hostile world if we didn't have embassies all over the world? If we didn't have people who understood foreign languages? If we didn't have people who had lived in these countries, who are Americans who lived in these countries but nonetheless understood the cultures and way of thinking and history of these other nations whom we are not yet friends with or whom we are friends with but want to be better friends with, or countries on the fence whom we want to bring over to democracy and to Western values?

I think we'd be far poorer if we did not have a foreign aid budget. And don't just take my word; take the word, for example, of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, who said to Congress last year, the more significant the cuts to foreign aid, the longer military operations will take, and the more lives will be at risk. That's the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not some crazy, wild-eyed, naive person, but the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying cutting diplomacy in the State Department and foreign aid threatens the lives of our warfighters, of our men and women in uniform.

Or how about when Secretary of Defense Gates, then under President Bush, said in 2008, referring to cuts, proposed cuts to foreign aid, that it has become clear that America's civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long. This is Defense Secretary Gates, under former President Bush, relative to what we traditionally spend on the military and, more important, relative to the responsibilities and challenges our Nation faces around the world.

My goodness. Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, North Korea, China--to say now is the time to have fewer people understanding foreign languages, fewer embassies, fewer diplomats to try to avert war and nuclear proliferation when it constitutes less than 1 percent of the budget already? That's going to solve our problems? That not only won't solve our economic problems, that will create more and more danger to U.S. national security.

That is why, while we need to cut spending, while we need to get rid of waste, while we need to find additional sources of revenue, like the unnecessary $4 billion that this Congress now gives already to the oil and gas and energy industries, to do what--$4 billion to do what? To encourage them to look for energy. Well, I thought they were making a profit at that already, the greatest profits in their histories. Yes, they are. So why give them $4 billion in subsidies? Let's use that for other purposes. Cut taxes--use that to reduce our deficit. Use that not to cut foreign aid, which returns probably 1,000 times per dollar than what we contribute in terms of the 1 percent of our budget that goes to diplomats, embassies, the State Department, and the meager foreign aid we provide to our essential military allies who are helping us protect against al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are helping us protect our vital sea lanes and economic lifeblood around the world.

I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues, but priorities are priorities, and we ought to make cuts where they make sense, not where they jeopardize U.S. national security.

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