Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 532 and ask for its immediate consideration.
Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, House Resolution [Page: H9645]
532 is a traditional standard rule for consideration of the conference report for the fiscal year 2006 Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act. The rule waives all points of order against the conference report and against its consideration.
Mr. Speaker, the legislation before us today appropriates almost $21 billion. It is an increase of about actually over $1 billion for operations across the globe. The bill is fiscally sound. It has grown at a small, very small rate, while at the same time I think it is responsive to the needs, not only the national security interests or the foreign policy interests of the United States, but also it is responsive to the needs of millions plagued by disease and famine and disaster throughout the
H.R. 3057, for example, Mr. Speaker, bolsters the President's Millennium Challenge Corporation to nearly $1.8 billion. It is about a quarter of a billion more than last year. This is an expansion of assistance meant to help bring really economic security and the rule of law to some of the world's poorest countries by insisting on American aid going to countries where there is transparency for the aid that we send, not corruption.
It is an important initiative.
The Millennium Challenge provides assistance through a competitive selection process to developing nations that are genuinely in the path of political and economic reforms in three areas: ruling justly, in other words, treating their people decently; investing in people; and fostering economic freedom. Economic development genuinely succeeds when it is linked to free market economic and democratic principles and policies and where governments are committed to implementing reform measures when
they are needed to achieve such goals.
Two years ago in the State of the Union address, President Bush announced the President's emergency plan for AIDS relief. It is the largest international health initiative in history initiated by a single government to address one disease. This legislation shows Congress's continued support to the fight against HIV/AIDS. It includes $2.8 billion, an increase of over $600 million over last year to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, as well as tuberculosis and malaria.
The resolve of this Congress to help all those across the globe to fight this disease is strong and serious, as is the commitment of the President of the United States. In addition to funding, the Federal Government enlists the expertise of agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, which assures that the medicines we send to the areas most affected by this horrible pandemic are safe and effective to help those with HIV/AIDS.
In other foreign assistance, H.R. 3057 funds the Andean Counterdrug Initiative at the President's request, $735 million, $9 million more than in 2005. Economic growth in the area since the start of Plan Colombia, for example, is proof that the assistance that we have provided Colombia has made a difference in that country.
I visited Colombia in April of last year. It was a great honor for me to do so. I have tens of thousands of distinguished constituents, very hard-working, honorable people from Colombia.
It was a pleasure to visit that country and to witness, Mr. Speaker, the extraordinary progress that the Colombian Government and the Colombian people have made against the narcoterrorists. They constantly reiterate, they did so during my visit and they have done so since and I know they have done so to countless colleagues in this House, they reiterate their gratitude to this Congress for the important assistance that the American people, the taxpayers of this country, through their Congress
have provided them and continue to do so in their fight against narcoterrorism.
Now, we must not take progress in the Andean region for granted. If the United States turns its back on the region, a scenario may very well ensue that would require greater U.S. investment at a time when we have significant responsibilities worldwide.
The underlying legislation provides also $2.5 billion for military and economic assistance to Israel. We have to continue to ensure that our friends and allies remain secure; and, of course, we have no better friend, no better ally than Israel. We are committed to doing everything we can to see that Israel is safe and secure within its borders as it continues to move in this very difficult era toward the achievement of a lasting peace with all of its neighbors.
The conference report funds the President's request to fund the foreign military financing for Egypt at $1.3 billion. It provides almost half a billion dollars for economic assistance to Egypt, including assistance set to help with political reform programs and education assistance. Of course, that is a very, very important initiative that this country has been involved in for decades now.
I would like to thank Chairman Lewis, who has worked very hard again, and Chairman Kolbe for their extraordinary leadership in moving this bill forward for our consideration today. I obviously support the conference report. I urge my colleagues to support both the rule and the underlying legislation, the conference report.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, lately when Americans turn on the news at night, they do not see the government that they recognize. They hear about a war in the Middle East gone wrong, and they see suffering people left to fend for themselves in times of crisis. They learn more and more about a White House under siege, and they are forced to recognize the ugly truth that many of their congressional leaders are entangled in a web of corruption.
While the criticism is justified and the concerns are real, the failures do not define America. It is important to remember that in difficult times, especially in difficult times, we must always keep close, in spite of the challenges at home and abroad, and that no other nation has shined the light of freedom and liberty as brightly as we have here in our country. No nation in history has given so much and asked for so little in return.
That romantic and powerful notion of America as a force for good in a troubled world strikes at the very heart of what it means to be an American. It is that spirit which drives us as a Nation to create a government as good as its people, and today we take one step in helping to restore that feeling in America to embody the ideal of what we hold dear. It is a bill that will help Americans recognize their government once again.
The foreign operations bill funds a number of different foreign assistance agencies and international organizations and, as such, has become both a critical and effective tool for this democracy to spread democratic values and concern for human rights around the world. This is legislation that the American people can take great pride in.
After all, today you will generously give $2.82 billion to some of our noblest callings, such as easing the suffering of those around the world stricken by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and particularly in Africa. $14 billion that Americans earned this year will be used to give foreign assistance.
These moneys will also help economic development in countries like Israel, Egypt, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Tibet, Colombia, and a number of other Eastern Bloc countries now struggling to become functioning democracies.
It further spends $1.6 billion to help fund many of the well-intentioned international financial institutions which the United States participates in, such as the World Bank, the African Development Fund, and the voluntary U.N. programs such as UNICEF and the U.N. Development Program. These American dollars will assist those struggling societies to build a better life for themselves and their families.
What we often fail to recognize is that foreign operations also help us here at home. The spending in the bill directly benefits our domestic economy. Through our many foreign assistance programs, we export American goods, American services and agricultural products all over the world. That means jobs for American families and a [Page: H9646]
brighter future for families across the world.
Of course, as with many complex pieces of legislation, I have some concerns with the conference report. Key among them is the Bush administration's insistence on maintaining a global gag rule which prevents critical family planning and health services aid from reaching the U.S. health clinics in underdeveloped and overpopulated countries where abortion counseling services are provided.
Clinics in overpopulated regions are not even allowed to take a public pro-choice position, and the United Nations fund for Population Assistance Program, which provides critical family planning services abroad, has been unfairly targeted by such administration policy.
The UNFPA does not provide abortion services, but the program has been repeatedly denied critical U.S. funding by the Bush administration under the gag rule. As a result, thousands of women in overpopulated developing nations are without the health care and family planning resources each of us takes for granted here in America.
Thankfully, this conference report provides $34 million in funding for this important program. But antichoice House and Senate conferees stripped the language which would protect the funding from the gag rule, and as a result that money will most likely never reach those it was intended to help.
Despite these attempts to politicize the considerable aid this Nation provides abroad, this legislation, on the whole, serves an unqualified good for the people all over the world.
I would submit, though, that through the money we spend here today on foreign ops, we do a better job of spreading universal values of democracy and liberty and freedom than with the hundreds of billions of dollars we have spent on the war in Iraq.
By helping to improve the quality of life for people all over the world, we export the seeds of our American Dream; and by investing in international organizations that open markets, create trade, foster economic development and promote democracy, we create a rising tide that truly lifts all boats.
This is the way America spreads its values most effectively. By serving the world community and investing as both a partner and leader in the global community, we exemplify what it truly means to be American; and as a result, we provide a living example that the America we have long known is still standing tall.
These programs effectively address global challenges at their root source and seek to overcome those challenges the right way, by fostering hope and opportunity, rather than fear and hostility. They are the best ambassadors of the American spirit that we could ever hope to export. After all, what better way is there for us to spread democracy, freedom, and social justice than through the methods that have proven time and time again to actually work.
Therefore, I urge my colleagues to vote for this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern).
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I want to commend Chairman Kolbe, Ranking Member Lowey, and their respective staffs for consistently working in a bipartisan fashion and trying year after year to bring before the House a bill that all Members can support.
For those of us who care in particular about the contributions made by the United States in reducing global poverty and hunger, increasing educational opportunities, access to health care and food security in some of the poorest places on this Earth, we very much appreciate the time and the effort that they invest in making sure that this bill responds to these needs and priorities.
I must express, however, Mr. Speaker, my regret that the final conference report did not include the Leahy-McConnell language dealing with the paramilitary demobilization taking place in Colombia. I recognize the language in the conference report is the result of some compromise, but it appears to me that the majority of compromising had to be done on the Senate side.
Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about news reports that demobilized paramilitary groups are regrouping into Mafia-like criminal organizations. New paramilitary groups seem to be springing up like daisies and their ranks are often made up of newly demobilized paramilitary troops.
Like all Members of Congress who follow Colombia, I want the demobilization process to work. I want it to succeed. But the process is not helped when the Congress or the administration turns a blind eye to serious failings in its implementation, as has been done over and over and over again.
For these reasons, I believe that the certification provision on Colombia's demobilization process in this bill, even though it is watered down, I think is important and needs to be faithfully implemented.
Last night during the Rules Committee hearing, I was very reassured when Chairman Kolbe told me that his committee would be vigilant in monitoring the demobilization of Colombia's paramilitary organizations and in overseeing the implementation of the certification conditions contained in the bill.
But, Mr. Speaker, I have often raised on the floor of this House my concerns about the long-standing ties between Colombia's armed forces and paramilitary forces and drug traffickers. I have constantly been told by the administration, by the Colombian Government, and even by some Members of this House, that these allegations also simply are not true.
Well, last week, on October 28, the New York Times reported how the top two directors of Colombia's intelligence agency, commonly called their secret police, have been forced to resign because the attorney general's office has finally begun an investigation into how the 7,100-member agency has been engaged in a money-making operation to sell intelligence and surveillance equipment to right-wing paramilitary groups.
Mr. Speaker, I will include the New York Times article in the RECORD at the conclusion of my remarks.
Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned by a new wave of threats, disappearances and murders of Colombian trade unionists, human rights defenders, legal advocates and community leaders which appears to be under way.
The violence in Colombia appears to be sharply escalating once again. I would like to mention in particular the murder of Mr. Orlando Valencia, an Afro-Colombian community leader who was forcibly captured off the street by paramilitary forces shortly after he was first briefly detained and then released by the Colombian police on October 15, which shows you the collaboration between the security forces and paramilitaries. His tortured and mutilated body was found a few days later along the side
of a local road.
At the time of his disappearance, I wrote to our embassy in Bogota, asking them to do all they could to find Mr. Valencia before he was killed; and I am still waiting for a response from our embassy to that letter.
So let me say to those who continue to champion billions of dollars in additional aid to the Colombian military and security forces, please pay attention not only to the spokespeople of the Colombian government but to the realities in that country. We should be more concerned. For all that we have invested in that country, we should expect better.
I want to thank the gentlewoman from New York for allowing me the time to express these concerns. I support the rule, and I will support the bill.
Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, we are also concerned about Colombia, and we are concerned about increased assistance from the terrorist network throughout the world, the Iranians, Chavez in Venezuela, Castro's Cuba. We are concerned about their support for the narcoterrorists in Colombia, and that is why it is so important to provide assistance to the democratically elected government of Colombia.
Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I am saying that it is a dictatorship. It is a dictatorship, a dictatorship that supports the regime in Iran publicly; a dictatorship, the regime in Caracas. The first foreign head of State to visit Saddam Hussein while Saddam Hussein was in power after the Gulf War of the 1990s was the President of Venezuela. So, yes, I am concerned about the President of Venezuela's links to terrorism and his assistance to the FARC guerillas in Colombia.
One of the reasons why we continue to help and assist the democratically elected government of Colombia, elected by an overwhelming majority of the Colombian people, is because they face multiple challenges. That is one of the reasons why, in a bipartisan fashion, this Congress continues to help the democratically elected government.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, if the gentleman will further yield, I appreciate his concerns about the violence by the FARC. I would also just appreciate it if he would also be concerned about the fact that we are supporting the Colombian military and security forces and they continue to be linked to right-wing paramilitary forces which commit crimes.
All I am simply saying is that we have certification language, we should enforce it and not continuously waive it because we want to continue to let the money flow. If we stand for human rights, then we need to put our actions where our rhetoric is, and we have not been doing that in Colombia.
Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Speaker, we have certification language. We do not condone in any way terrorism from any source in Colombia. We have consistently had safeguards in our legislation to make sure that our assistance is not used by terrorists of any sort in Colombia, but I think that we have to keep our eye on the ball here, and that is that there is a democratically elected government challenged by narcoterrorists, heavily funded because of their trade
in narcotics, their narcotrafficking, and that that government, that democratically elected government, is a friend of this country and merits our continued support.
So I am honestly very pleased that, in a bipartisan fashion, this Congress continues to support the democratically elected government of Colombia; and that is one of the great foreign policy initiatives, bipartisan foreign policy initiatives, by the way, that this country is engaged in, which is very connected to the security of this country in addition to the foreign policy objectives of this country.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. KUCINICH. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Speaker, there is much in this bill to support, and I rise in support of the rule and the bill. This is a bill which demonstrates America's capacity to be sensitive to the world, America's willingness to feed the hungry, to help those who are depressed and oppressed all around the world.
The heart of America is open to people everywhere. That is why it is such a tragedy that, while we simultaneously will pass this bill today, our country is involved in action in Iraq that is undermining all the goodwill that America creates with this bill. What an irony it is that we are here talking about the needs of people all over the globe and, at the same time, we are alienating people all over the globe by pursuing a war in Iraq, a country that did not attack us, based on false information
from an administration that should have known better.
So, yes, we ought to support this rule and we ought to support the bill, because the word that ought to go out, far and wide, about the United States is that we care about suffering people, that we want to find a way of lifting up people everywhere, that we want to try to find a way of making this a better world. But, as we do that, we also need to be consistent. We need to remember that we are simultaneously pursuing a path in Iraq that is wrong. We need to take a new direction there so that
we can bring America's aspirations to help the world in line with our policy everywhere.
Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this rule and the legislation itself.
I would like to begin by congratulating my very good friend from Arizona (Mr. Kolbe) and my friend from New York (Ms. Lowey) for working in a bipartisan way to ensure that we could get this conference report to the floor.
I also want to congratulate, of course, the leadership of the full committee. I see the gentleman from Wisconsin here and Chairman Lewis, who I know have worked long and hard on these issues.
It is great that we are able to continue down this road of getting our work done when it comes to appropriations. That has been a high priority that Chairman Lewis has established; and, obviously, what we are going through today is evidence of that.
I want to especially, as we look at what is a multi-billion-dollar piece of legislation designed to ensure the national security of the United States of America and our interests around the world, I would like to talk about a tiny [Page: H9648]
bit of money that is in here. It is a lot of money to me, it is a lot of money to us as individuals, it is $1 million, but in the big scheme of things, if you look at a $20 billion package, the $1 million is relatively small.
It has to do with funding for something known as the House Democracy Assistance Commission. This is a very, very important initiative that was launched by Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Pelosi to put us on the road towards assisting, from this institution, emerging parliaments around the world.
One of the things that we found in the aftermath of Iraq is that there has been really a tremendous expansion of democracy. We know that in this hemisphere, and I heard the gentleman from Massachusetts and the gentleman from Florida having an exchange about this hemisphere, and I cannot help but think about the fact that we need to herald, herald the fact that, as the Summit of the Americas is taking place in Argentina at the moment, there are 34 democratically elected leaders in this hemisphere,
and that is something that is unprecedented, unprecedented. We never in the history of the world have seen this kind of expansion of pluralism in this hemisphere, but it is also taking place in other parts of the world. Hence, we put together this Democracy Assistance Commission.
I was very honored that the Speaker asked me to chair this, and I am joined by my very good friend from North Carolina (Mr. Price) who has worked on this. This is an idea that goes, frankly, all the way back to our former colleague, Doug Bereuter, who worked on this initiative.
What we are doing is, in the coming months, we are going to see members of parliaments from these new democracies, new parliaments coming to the United States and spending time in State capitals, working in congressional district offices, dealing with the wide range of issues that Members of the House of Representatives face. They are going to do that for 1 week.
Then, for a week, they are going to be coming to Washington, DC, and they are going to have an opportunity to focus attention on these very important issues of committee establishment, of budget process, oversight of the executive branch, things that we have a tendency to take for granted that these new democracies are just beginning to learn about.
One of those countries is the newest democracy on the face of the earth. It happens to be a country that just gained its independence 6 years ago from Indonesia: East Timor, a nation established in 1999. We also are going to include Indonesia. We are going to be including Kenya, the Republic of Georgia, Macedonia. Those are going to be the first five countries that we are going to include. So we will have roughly 10 parliamentarians from each of those five countries come to the United States
and expend time and effort learning about this process, which we have a tendency to take for granted.
The gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Kolbe) is working very hard on this commission. We appreciate all the work that he has put into it, and we also appreciate the fact that he understands the importance of making sure that it succeeds.
This is all part of our quest to win the global war on terror. As has been pointed out time and time again, as we see the expansion, Mr. Speaker, of these democracies, we are in a position where we now have an opportunity to create a chance for people in these countries to succeed without resorting to terrible, terrible things.
So I congratulate my friends for this overall bill. I congratulate them and the bipartisan spirit in dealing with this appropriations process. I support the rule, and I look forward for voting for final passage on this very important conference report.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my strong support for the fiscal year 2006 foreign operations conference report, which provides further foreign assistance to the Republic of Armenia, including $75 million in economic assistance. I would like to thank the House Appropriations Committee for its continued support of both Armenia and resolving the humanitarian situation in Nagorna-Karabakh.
Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Kolbe and Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey realize how important these funds are to Armenia and Nagorna-Karabakh, and I would like to thank them for their continued support.
I would also like to thank my friend and co-chair of the Armenian Caucus, the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Knollenberg), for his key support as a member of the subcommittee.
Mr. Speaker, it is very important that this House continue to recognize the plight of the victims of the Nagorna-Karabakh conflict. The conference committee included $3 million in humanitarian assistance to Nagorna-Karabakh. While the United States does not officially recognize the State of Nagorna-Karabakh, this assistance shows that the United States supports Nagorna-Karabakh as an Armenian enclave that needs our continued help.
It is also important to point out that the conference report maintains military assistance parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan, providing $5 million allocated to each country. By allocating equal levels of military and security assistance to both nations, the U.S. Government will preserve its credibility as an impartial and leading mediator in the continuing sensitive peace negotiations for the Nagorna-Karabakh conflict. Given the ongoing Azerbaijani blockades and threats to renew military
aggression against Armenia and Karabakh, it is critically important that the administration continue to promote balanced short- and long-term policies that elevate regional cooperation and reduce the risk of conflict in the south Caucasus region.
Again, let me thank the members of the Appropriations Committee for their continued support for Armenia.
Mr. PENCE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the rule supporting the conference report for Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs. It is an example of Congress demonstrating the ability to fund our national and international priorities in a fiscally responsible way, and I come to this floor to extol its virtues and urge all of my colleagues to support the rule and the underlying bill.
This legislation will fund the Nation's priorities in a meaningful way, addressing the AIDS pandemic, bringing innovative reforms to our foreign assistance programs and, of ultimate significance, supporting the global war on terror.
But specifically with regard to the internal mechanics of this legislation, I am particularly moved by the leadership of Chairman Jerry Lewis of the Appropriations Committee and subcommittee chairman Jim Kolbe who, in an effort to ensure that this legislation was brought to this floor not only on time but on budget, are in the midst of an extraordinary effort to amend the Budget Act to embrace a new road map that will bring not only this bill but all of the appropriations to
the $843 billion level embraced by this Congress this spring.
Many of us have expressed concerns in recent days that three of the four preceding conference reports that came to the floor did not conform precisely with the details of that spring-adopted budget.
In response to that, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee shared with us and with other Members the road map to help us to achieve what will be, in a historic manner, a real cut to nonsecurity discretionary spending before Congress adjourns this year.
But in an effort to go one step further, the Appropriations Committee began the process this week of amending that road map into the Budget Act itself.
It is my understanding that the Budget Committee as well as many fiscal hawks in the Republican majority [Page: H9649]
have been moved by that leadership and see it as an example of the energetic, principled, executive renewed leadership in the Appropriations Committee under Chairman Jerry Lewis.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the rule. I urge all of my colleagues to support the rule and the underlying bill. I rise to give credit where credit is due, to Chairman Jerry Lewis and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Kolbe, for a job well done, proving once again it is possible to fund the Nation's priorities on time, on budget, in a generous, but fiscally responsible, way.
Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the rule and in support of the conference report, the Foreign Operations and Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2006. At this time, I want to commend the chairman of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee for the very fair and bipartisan manner in which he has brought this bill forward. I will save my comments on the substance of the conference report for the general debate.
However, I do want to make clear that we had a tough job taking this bill through conference. The very low initial allocation in the House was compounded by a low conference allocation that cut the President's request by $2 billion. I would have preferred to increase funding levels for many of the important programs contained in this bill, including refugee assistance.
However, I do think this conference report represents a fair, bipartisan, bicameral compromise. The chairman conducted this process in an inclusive manner, and I do commend him for it. I urge my colleagues to support the rule and to support the conference report on H.R. 3057.
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me the time and permitting me to speak on this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the rule and of the underlying legislation. I want to highlight the $200 million that has been set aside for safe drinking water.
I must acknowledge not just the leadership of the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Kolbe) and the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey), but the special interests of the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, with whom I have been working on efforts to increase our commitment to provide sanitation and safe drinking water around the world, a United States priority that we have undertaken together with the United Nations; but it is one where we have not yet backed that up with
dollars and with an overall strategy.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that this bill is an important step towards meeting that obligation. I am pleased that next week it appears as we will be voting on legislation, the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, which will suggest that this will be a cornerstone in our foreign aid strategy.
At any given time, one-half of the people in the world who are sick are sick needlessly from waterborne diseases; and before I finish the 3 minutes that the gentlewoman has kindly allocated to me, more than 10 children will die from waterborne disease.
But the programs in this bill are more than just humanitarian efforts to reduce human suffering. As valuable as they are, they are cost-effective investments in shared prosperity, collective security, and a common future.
I hope that next year we will make it possible for the subcommittee to do its job easily and that the United States is not ranked 21st out of 22 donor countries in terms of how much we invest in ending global poverty compared to the size of our economy.
I hope, Mr. Speaker, additionally, that we are able to correct one area that is of deep concern to me, the loss of $50 million for the African Union Mission in Darfur, cut just at the point where security is getting worse, when the African Union is coming under attack, and the innocent people in Darfur are most in need of protection.
It troubles me deeply. However, overall I think the job that has been done by the subcommittee in fighting for our priorities and particularly in the renewed investment in safe drinking water and sanitation is to be commended. It will have a transformational effect, even this small amount. Bear in mind, Mr. Speaker, that if Americans would allocate just what we give each year for elective cosmetic surgery, or the Europeans would invest what they spend on perfume, we could meet the targets that
the United States and the United Nations have set to reduce the scourge of unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation.
I appreciate the work that is here. I look forward to supporting the bill.
Mr. FARR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me time.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Chairman Kolbe and Ranking Member Lowey for increasing the amount of money that has been put into the alternative development program in Colombia. It is a program that gets people away from growing coca into growing alternative crops. And I stand in support of the rule on this bill.
I am a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Colombia and very much interested in building the capacity of local people to handle their own issues. If there is anything that we have learned from the Iraq war, it is the necessity to build local capacity for host country nationals to be able to run their own government and their own programs.
And if you have a lot of people that are displaced, meaning they have no place to live, no jobs, no schools, no infrastructure to support them, you have a lot of problems. So what you need to do is provide abilities for them to have, in the rural areas, good economic opportunity. You do that by providing a base of what we call alternative development of programs that will keep them economically viable and thus not pressured into growing illicit crops and things like that.
The committee in the House marked this with good money. The Senate raised it. And the conference committee brought it a little bit down, $5.5 million over last year's level. I really want to commend the committee for doing that.
I think, frankly, that we need to, as a Congress, really address how much money gets to these countries, rather than just gets to K Street and lobbyists that are doing reports and doing studies of countries, rather than really helping the money get down to the people. And this is one program that focuses on local issues and NGOs, nongovernmental organizations, rather than multimillion dollar contracts for U.S. contractors.
Building capacities is absolutely essential to survivability of a country. Now, one concern I have is that the report contains $20 million for demobilization activities from an unspecified account. I think it is great that we are helping with the demobilization of the paramilitaries and the FARC and other kinds of insurgents, terrorists in a sense; but I want to make sure that that demobilization money is not taken from the alternative crop money.
I would appreciate if the chairman in his remarks could, perhaps for the record, respond to what conditions have been put on that demobilization money when they decide what account to take it from.
Again, I want to thank the chairman and ranking member, and I really appreciate their efforts to look for how to make a saner and smarter world to live in, rather than just sticking to the old adage that we are going to give money to K Street and let them decide what are the priorities abroad.
Anything we can do to build the capacities of local countries to sustain themselves will make this world a much safer and saner place to live.