Foreign Aid Ranks Among the President’s Foreign Policy Headaches

USAID in Pakistan-AFP MehriIn a recent post, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin reported on the top ten policy areas where President Obama will potentially face Republican opposition. Chief among them is foreign aid. Rogin speculates that the White House may turn to foreign policy as the Republican-controlled House pushes back on the President’s domestic agenda. Still, he notes that victories abroad are a sign of cooperation – and the Obama administration has a history of finding key support from Republicans in Congress (e.g. Afghanistan surge). Rogin’s list of foreign policy “headaches” includes: Afghanistan, the new START treaty, containing Iran, defense budget reform, civilian nuclear agreements, Syria, Cuba, free trade, and State Department nominations.  See below for some excerpts:

On Afghanistan: “On the civilian side, new prospective State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) is poised to use her control over civilian aid to press the case for taking a tougher line on Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as her predecessor Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) did in 2010.”

On foreign aid: “As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama promised to double the foreign aid budget within five years. Likewise, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised to elevate development alongside defense and diplomacy as a key pillar of U.S. national security policy. Both those promises face increased resistance in Congress next year, as lawmakers look to make budget cuts in programs that lack strong domestic constituencies. “One of the main issue voters are talking about is out-of-control spending, and foreign aid won’t be exempt from cuts,” one GOP aide told The Cable.”

“The congressional drive to pass a wholesale reform of foreign-aid distribution has also been dealt a blow due to the GOP takeover of the House. The most comprehensive bill on this front was written by outgoing House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) — but his bill failed to move out of committee, and it’s unlikely that his successor, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), will take up the cause. Expect congressional Republicans to also resist large increases in the budget for the State Department, which is taking on increased roles all over the world, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan. The State Department’s budget for fiscal 2011 is still under consideration.”

On State Department nominations: “Senate Republicans have been holding up the nominations of scores of administration officials. The most visible holds are several U.S. ambassadorial nominees, such as Robert Ford to Syria, Frank Ricciardone to Turkey, Matthew Bryza to Azerbaijan, and Norm Eisen to the Czech Republic.”

“The nominations are held up by different senators for different reasons, some personal, some political. The increased GOP presence in the Senate won’t directly affect these nominations, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have to approve the nominations again if they are not acted on this year.”

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