|1:48 PM EDT||
Nita Lowey, D-NY 18th
Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of H.R. 3057, the fiscal year 2006 foreign operations appropriations bill, and I want to thank the chairman of our subcommittee, the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Kolbe) for his hard work in putting together this bill. The good working relationship we share is evident in the product we present to the House today.
The President's fiscal year 2006 request, when compared with the subcommittee's 302(b) allocation, presented us with an array of difficult choices. Our allocation is a full $2.55 billion below the request level, and into this reduced allocation we had to fit increases in administration priorities, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President's emergency plan for AIDS relief.
While I do believe that the bill reflects, for the most part, a bipartisan compromise on the distribution of resources, I feel that this allocation fails to meet our overall foreign policy and national security needs at a time when the world is facing greater instability due to disease, deprivation and conflict.
The world's attention is focused on the upcoming G-8 Summit, in which wealthy nations will announce new commitments to achieve development progress. It is in this context that we must consider the bill before us today. We must ask if it is sufficient to lead the community of developed nations in creating a new compact for global development; if it will make the United States the standard bearer in a renewed effort to lift the least fortunate among us out of poverty; if it represents the commitment
we must make to achieving the good governance and adequate financial resources to address the world's challenges.
My colleagues, we did the best we could with what we had, and I commend the chairman for that, but it is not enough. We are missing an opportunity today to demonstrate that the United States understands not just the need but the urgency of beating back the AIDS pandemic, getting children in school, encouraging reformers and oppressive societies, an opportunity to show that we understand business as usual simply will not do the job and that we are willing to take dramatic steps to bring the rest
of the world on board.
This bill will do a great deal of good for a lot of people. It will address many of the challenges around the world that most directly affect U.S. national security, but it is not the bold statement that we all know it could be. Nevertheless, I generally agree with my chairman on the spending levels recommended within the reduced allocation. We worked closely together to ensure that in the face of these devastating cuts, we at least level-funded child survival and health and development assistance
We provided an increase over the President's request for HIV/AIDS, doubling his request for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. Although I wish we could have done more for the Global Fund, I believe we are doing the best we can with the resources we have. We provided $465 million for basic education. We continued the U.S. reconstruction program in Afghanistan, and we fully funded our commitments in the Middle East, a powerful statement at such a critical time in the peace process.
The message we have sent with this bill is clear: In contrast with the President's request, Congress will not increase funding for MCC and PEPFAR on the backs of our core development accounts.
I am pleased that we were also able to restore deep cuts the President requested in reproductive health programs. This bill provides $432 million of bilateral funding, the fiscal year 2005 House-passed level, and earmarks an additional $25 million in International Organizations and Program funds for the United Nations Population Fund. The bill further specifies that any funds for the UNFPA that cannot be spent should be transferred to USAID specifically for bilateral family planning programs,
a provision we carried in the fiscal year 2004 bill as well.
As I said, I am also pleased that this bill provides a total of $465 million for basic education, $65 million more than the fiscal year 2005 level. And, once again, we provide $15 million for a pilot program to eliminate school fees and, for the first time, require a GAO study on our education programs to ensure that we maximize the effectiveness of our aid dollars.
This bill fully funds Israel's annual economic and military aid package, including early disbursal of these funds within 30 days of the bill's passage. It also includes language carried in previous years, placing conditions on U.S. support for any future Palestinian state. This year, the bill includes an additional provision requiring a GAO audit of the fiscal year 2006 West Bank and Gaza program, as well as a project-by-project plan from the State Department on how these funds are being spent.
And it extends a reporting requirement included in the fiscal year 2005 supplemental on the Palestinians' progress in reforming their security services, dismantling terrorist groups, and ending incitement against Israel. I agree with the chairman that these provisions are critical to monitoring the results we achieve as well as the money we disburse.
I am proud that the bill and report carry a number of provisions aimed at increasing the U.S. commitment to fighting gender-based violence around the world, including in areas with high HIV infection rates and in areas undergoing conflict and civil strife. I want to thank the chairman for including a provision requiring police, judicial, and military training programs funded in the bill to develop training curricula on how to prevent and deal with victims of gender-based violence. And I am pleased
that we were able to increase funding for UNIFEM and the UNIFEM Trust Fund to a total of $5 million.
I want to point out a few specific concerns, however, I have with the bill. First, it provides no funding to the Global Environmental Facility, GEF. The GEF is the largest single funder of projects to improve the global environment, and every dollar invested by the U.S. in the GEF leverages $14 from other sources.
I do understand why the chairman has proposed this cut. The GEF has dragged its feet in implementing a performance-based allocation system. And while I agree with the chairman's desire to send a message that we are serious about reform, I do believe cutting funding is not the right way to accomplish this. I hope we will have the opportunity to restore funding to the GEF as this bill moves to the Senate and through conference.
I am also concerned that the bill places no conditionality whatsoever on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia and international military education and training for Guatemala. For the first time since Indonesian military-backed militias laid waste to East Timor in the wake of its August 1999 independence referendum, we will provide FMF to Indonesia free of any conditions. And despite the Guatemalan government's noncompliance with military reform stipulated in the Peace Accords, we have removed
IMET restrictions on that country as well.
I regret that we were not able to fully fund the President's request for [Page: H5284]
refugees and peacekeeping. The reduced allocation simply made it impossible. I am pleased that we were able to provide additional funding
as part of the fiscal year 2005 supplemental, and I am optimistic we can increase funding for these accounts in conference.
Let me also say that even though this bill provides no funding for Iraq reconstruction, I take seriously the role this committee plays in exercising oversight over this effort. Reports of wasted money and poor accounting for taxpayer funds are certainly alarming. Congress, and particularly this subcommittee, has a responsibility to ensure that these funds are used properly and efficiently, and the chairman and I will continue to make this a priority.
Finally, I would like to point out that the Senate's allocation for foreign operations is a full $1.6 billion above the House. It is my hope that this allocation will enable us to significantly increase funding for a number of critical priorities in the final conference measure.
I want to thank the chairman once again for being such a good partner in the process. I particularly want to thank him and wish him a very happy birthday from all of us. With few exceptions, I believe we have put together a good bill within the context of our difficult allocation.
I appreciate the gentleman's help and the work of the staff, Nisha, Betsy, Alice, Rodney, Rob, Lori, Sean, and Beth, in bringing this bill to the floor and I urge my colleagues to support it.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.