|2:01 PM EDT||
Joseph Knollenberg, R-MI 9th
Mr. KNOLLENBERG. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this bill, the fiscal year 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act.
Let me begin by commending the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Kolbe) for his work as chairman of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs. Every year he puts a great deal of effort into examining the issues thoroughly and giving sincere consideration to Members' requests. Thanks to his efforts, we have before us today an excellent bill.
I also commend the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey), the ranking member. She and I have worked together on a number of issues over the years, and together we have achieved some important results.
I also want to thank all of the staff for their hard work and the research they have done over the weeks and months to address the many issues in this bill. Their organization and discipline has made this year's process move more smoothly.
As Members of Congress, we have a responsibility to exercise our oversight to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent as effectively as possible. Oversight has been a primary focus of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations this year, and there are important provisions in this bill to help make our foreign assistance programs more accountable.
This bill requires the administration and international organizations to set transparent goals and measure progress towards these goals in tangible ways. The bill also limits spending until certain reforms are implemented. Because of this oversight, the committee has been able to produce a bill that is $2.5 billion below the administration's request and still focuses on the important priorities.
Assistance to the Middle East is always a central part of this bill. For fiscal year 2006, Israel will receive $2.28 billion in military assistance, $240 million in economic assistance, and $40 million to help resettle Jewish refugees in Israel. I strongly support all of this funding.
I am also pleased that the bill provides $40 million for assistance to Lebanon, which is an increase of $5 million from last year. With Syria's military withdrawal from Lebanon and the recent elections, there is an opportunity for positive change. This extra funding will give the State Department and USAID some flexibility to take advantage of this opportunity.
There are also a variety of important programs in the bill that provide support to reform efforts within the countries of the broader Middle East, including $85 million for the Middle East Partnership Initiative.
Regarding Armenia, the bill provides $67.5 million in economic assistance. Unfortunately, Turkey and Azerbaijan continue to seal the transportation routes into and out of Armenia, so this funding is important to offset this economic blockade.
The bill also maintains parity in military assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan, which is critical to our overall policy toward the South Caucasus.
There are other valuable programs in this bill, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation and funding to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
But in addition to what this bill does include, what is equally important is what this bill does not include.
Specifically, this bill does not include any funding for the Global Environmental Facility. Plain and simple, [Page: H5285]
this is a matter of accountability, and we cannot afford to waste money on organizations that refuse to implement good-government reforms.
Mr. Chairman, this is a responsive bill. It is the result of significant oversight. It is fiscally sound, and it focuses on priorities that will advance our interests. For all of these reasons, I strongly support this bill, and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting it on the floor today.