A group of lawmakers are seeking dramatic increases in diplomatic and foreign aid funds, an opening volley by the Democrats to correct the “militarization” of US foreign policy over the past few decades.
Lawmakers – Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Chris Van Hollen and Representatives Ami Bera and David Cicilline – are calling for a $ 12 billion increase in funding for the State Department and other foreign aid and development agencies. They say the increase will focus on tackling climate change, preventing future pandemics and confronting China as the United States’ global superpower competitor.
The new plan comes when the Biden government begins preparing its budget proposal to be presented to Congress. This is a significant shift in priorities to the Trump administration, which has repeatedly sought to cut funding for diplomatic and foreign aid. Congress rejected these efforts in a non-partisan way.
It also sends a not-so-subtle signal to the White House in Biden that its allies in Congress want them to propose more money for diplomacy and defense. “We are releasing this document in the hopes of influencing the administration’s decisions,” Murphy told reporters in a conference call Tuesday shortly after the plan was announced. “I think there are a lot of sympathetic voices.”
However, in a tightly-knit Senate where Republicans and Democrats each have 50 seats (and the Vice President acts as a tie-breaker), the plan could face hurdles. Even if they can find a sympathetic ear in the White House, it is unclear whether enough Republican lawmakers, many of whom are suddenly skeptical of a rising federal budget and growing deficits, will support the proposal in its entirety.
Lawmakers who drafted the plan said the United States would fall behind China, which has doubled its diplomacy budget in the past decade, if Washington does not increase funding for the State Department and foreign aid programs.
“[W]We have watched with growing concern as the Department of Defense’s budget has increased by hundreds of billions of dollars while funding for our other major national security agencies has stagnated. It’s bad policy; A gift in Beijing, an invitation to the next virus and a devastating blow to our efforts to fight climate change, ”the legislature wrote in its plan, which was also published on Tuesday.
Her proposal is to increase the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) budgets from $ 56.6 billion to $ 68.7 billion, with offices dealing with economic, democratic and human rights issues should be increased significantly. The plan would increase spending on US-funded media and efforts to combat global disinformation and propaganda operations, funding for the Department of State’s Global Engagement Center from $ 55 million to $ 138 million, and funding for the US Agency for Global Media (which monitors Voice of America and radio) increase Free Europe / Radio Liberty (including news organizations) from $ 807 million to $ 857 million.
Legislators are also calling for the annual budget of Millennium Challenge Corporation, a smaller independent aid organization focused on economic development, to be doubled from $ 905 million to $ 1.81 billion.
The initiative comes from progressive lawmakers pressuring US President Joe Biden to cut defense spending. Rep. Mark Pocan, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus of Congress, and more than 50 other members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Biden on Tuesday asking him to cut the Pentagon budget – an effort expected by the Republicans being violently pushed back. “We can not do better if the budget of the Pentagon is as high as it was under Donald Trump,” said Pocan.
Murphy found that the US Department of Defense budget is 13 times the US Department of State and USAID budget. “It is time to stop trying to solve non-military problems with military tools and give agencies like the State Department and USAID the resources they need in the 21st century,” Murphy said.