Washington, Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Floor Speech

By:  Adam Schiff
Date: Feb. 16, 2011
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SCHIFF. Madam Chair, over the last several weeks we've seen some of the most dramatic and potentially promising events in the Arab world in perhaps a generation. We saw what began with the actions of a fruit vendor in Tunisia spiral and take down not only the government in that country but in Egypt in a way that carries on and whose consequences we have yet to fully comprehend.

In this environment where we have a potential game-changing situation in the Arab world, where people not only in the Arab world but around the entire globe have celebrated as people have taken to the streets to reclaim the right to shape their own government, to exercise their God-given rights of freedom of expression, freedom of association, in this hour of great promise and hour of great peril, our ability to interact with the rest of the world, our ability to fund vital efforts in the rest of the world is more essential than ever.

We have an opportunity here to help in parts of the world that have been fertile terrain for terrorism to remove some of the root causes of that terrorism--the lack of opportunity, suffering under authoritarian regimes--and we need to engage in this potentially new world.

I am very much afraid that some of the crippling cuts to our foreign assistance budget that are contemplated in this CR will undermine our ability to react and respond in this fast-changing situation. Some of the further cuts that are contemplated in the amendments that we'll hear tonight which will even go beyond what is in this CR would, again, be extraordinarily detrimental to our ability to help shape in a positive way the events that are taking place.

To give you one example, right now Egypt is under military law. We have a decades-long relationship with the Egyptian military by virtue of our FMF funding, by virtue of our IMET relationship. These are the subject of not only cuts but, in some of the amendments tonight, crippling cuts that will undermine our continuing ability, our continuing relationship with that military as it works with members of the opposition to shape Egypt's future. That relationship we have with the Egyptian military I think will be pivotal in keeping a fire lit in Egypt to make sure that the road to democracy is inexorable and that it happens soon. So I am desperately concerned about some of the cuts in the CR and some of the cuts that are contemplated in the amendments.

I appreciate very much the work that my chair, Nita Lowey, has done and the new chair, Ms. Granger, has done. I look forward to working with both of them. I hope to restore some of the funding that has been taken out in the CR and to defeat some of the amendments that will further undercut these vital international efforts.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from California is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I also rise in opposition to this amendment.

As my ranking member, Mrs. Lowey from New York pointed out, the funding for international operations and programs in the CR is already below levels enacted under President Bush. This would cut it further. It means reductions to a fund for victims of torture, the Development Fund For Women, the U.N. Development Program, as well as two that I want to highlight in particular: UNICEF and the Democracy Fund.

Since its founding in 1946, UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any humanitarian organization in the world. UNICEF works in 150 countries, literally saving children's lives, one of the best investments in foreign assistance dollars.

Through global efforts spearheaded by UNICEF, child mortality rates have dropped by a third since 1990. Every year, 8 million children under 5 still perish from preventable causes. The funding contributed to UNICEF is urgently needed to help save these children.

UNICEF reaches more than half of the world's children with inexpensive immunizations against lethal diseases like measles and tetanus. Annually, UNICEF distributes more than 2.6 billion doses of vaccines worth more than $600 million. UNICEF is one of the largest purchasers of anti-malaria bed nets, distributing 19 million of these lifesaving nets in 48 countries.

Nearly a third of the funding for UNICEF comes from nongovernmental sources, businesses, and personal and foundation contributions. UNICEF is also a partner with organizations like Rotary International to eradicate polio and Kiwanis International to fight iodine deficiency disorders.

UNICEF plays a critical role as a U.S. partner to help children in humanitarian crises, whether it is an earthquake in Haiti or flooding in Pakistan. It is a lifeline to millions of children caught up in more than 36 humanitarian emergencies worldwide, serving as the coordinating agency for water and sanitation, child protection, nutrition, and education.

The funding for UNICEF extends the reach of the U.S. Government and the American people in saving children from preventable deaths, supporting education, fighting HIV/AIDS, and protecting children from violence, exploitation, and abuse.

It is a high-return investment in children and a critical part of our international assistance that enjoys the ongoing support of the American people. This is just

one of the programs that would be dramatically cut.

The Democracy Fund is another that I want to highlight. We have all witnessed the marvel of the Tunisian and Egyptian people who have risen up against brutal dictators in the name of democracy. The next months and years will be crucial as these countries travel the path to democracy. We must be able to fund NGOs and other entities to support the growth of democracy there and help it become rooted.

As the world's oldest democracy, we cannot shirk our responsibility to foster representative government elsewhere, especially when people have taken it upon themselves to cast off the old order.

The Democracy Fund provides resources for innovative projects that support the longstanding bipartisan U.S. foreign policy goals of defending human rights and advancing democratic values. Working through over 110 implementing partners, in 2010 the Democracy Fund supported local groups to promote democracy and human rights.

Just a few examples: In Yemen, an NGO is working through a combination of youth chat radio series, youth leadership trainings, and public roundtables and forums to increase public awareness and understanding of religious freedom and tolerance.

In the West Bank, the funding has helped promote tolerance among youth by working with teachers and administrators.

And in the Sudan, in response to widespread violence against women in Darfur, the fund supported critical services and critical outreach to survivors of gender-based violence.

Without the Democracy Fund, DRL and the State Department would be unable to support efforts to push the Chinese government to more actively disclose food and drug safety information, information that directly affects the well-being of the American public.

These are just a few of the essential programs that are covered and are cut in the CR and that will be cut further by this amendment. For all these reasons, I urge a ``no'' vote on the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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