Engel Floor Remarks on State and Foreign Operations Amendment
- As Delivered -
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives on various amendments to the appropriations bill under consideration today.
“Let me start by thanking my colleagues and fellow co-chairs of the House Tuberculosis Elimination Caucus: Mr. Young of Alaska and Mr. Gene Green of Texas. I’m grateful for their support of this measure and for their work to combat tuberculosis around the world. This bipartisan amendment would help move that work forward.
“Mr. Chairman, America’s investments in global health are not handouts. Combating disease around the world isn’t just some pet project to make us feel good about ourselves. When we invest in global health, we’re investing in our own security and leadership on the global stage.
“After all, infectious diseases don’t respect borders. And when we fail to fight a dangerous illness or respond to a pandemic overseas, we risk having to respond once it reaches our shores.
“At the same time, healthier communities are more productive, more stable communities. Healthier countries are stronger partners on the world stage. And when the United States helps to advance those conditions, we’re showing the world what kind of country we are—what American values demand of us.
“The reality is we should be investing more in these efforts.
“And one area where we need a lot more support is in the fight against tuberculosis.
“TB kills more people worldwide than any other infectious disease. This is especially heartbreaking, Mr. Chairman, because we know how to prevent TB and we know how to cure it. So we know how to cure it and people are still dying. That’s just unfathomable.
“Yet in 2015, 1.8 million people died from this disease. Ten-and-a-half million more became infected. One in ten TB patients is also HIV positive, making tuberculosis the top killer of people living with HIV. And countries with a high prevalence of TB can see their GDP shrink by four to seven percent.
“The World Health Organization tells us we need an additional $2 billion every year to control tuberculosis.
“My amendment would help to make up part of that shortfall, ramping up USAID’s global health programs by $209 million. That would bring our investment in TB assistance to $450 million.
“These efforts have a proven track record, Mr. Chairman. In the countries where we’re working on the problem, incidence of TB has dropped by nearly a fifth since 2000—more than twice as fast as countries where we haven’t been involved. That’s tens of thousands of precious lives saved and we played a major role in that.
“My amendment won’t wipe out this disease, Mr. Chairman, but it will save lives. It will build on past successes and move us in the direction of putting a stop to this killer once and for all.
“I ask all members to support this bipartisan amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.”
“This amendment unfortunately would harm American leadership on the global stage, cutting our investment in the International Organizations Account by $10 million.
“Mr. Chairman, this bill already underfunds diplomacy and development, when we should be investing more in these critical components of our national security. Cutting resources for our work in international organizations would take us further in the wrong direction.
“Just so we’re clear about what international organizations we’re talking about: were talking about NATO, the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Do we really want to damage the effectiveness of these organizations and our ability to lead from within them?
“Congress just passed critical sanctions on Russia. NATO is the main organization defending Europe against Vladimir Putin’s aggression. But instead of bolstering the NATO Alliance, this amendment would only reinforce the reluctance to support the North Atlantic alliance by some in the Administration. This should worry lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as Americans at home following the debate.
“How about the World Health Organization? Last time I looked, the World Health Organization was fighting the Zika and Ebola outbreaks. Do we now want to slash its funding and undermine its role of responding to the next major pandemic? I can assure you that the diseases we don’t combat abroad today eventually will reach our shores.
“North Korea is threatening the globe with nuclear weapons. Iran remains not far behind. So I cannot fathom why we would want to cut funding for the IAEA, given its crucial role in monitoring nuclear safety around the world.
“And of course, this amendment would also reduce our support for the UN regular budget. Withholding this funding could cause the United States to fall behind at the UN, further diminishing our standing in the world, calling into question our commitment as a global leader, and ceding ground to Vladimir Putin and others who are happy to expand their reach but who do not share our values.
“In fact, even a senior Administration official—our own Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley—has said on many occasions that while she supports efforts to reform the UN, she does not support a ‘slash and burn’ approach.
“This amendment unfortunately is a ‘slash and burn’ approach, Mr. Chairman, and I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing it.
“And it’s my pleasure to yield one minute to my esteemed colleague, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee—and a fellow New Yorker—Mrs. Nita Lowey.”
“I thank my friend for yielding to me and I rise in strong opposition to this amendment. To completely eliminate funding for the United States Institute for Peace would be a serious mistake.
“Let me thank Mrs. Lowey for the wonderful work she’s doing here. John Lewis, an American hero—I think we should listen to what John has to say.
“And for anyone who doesn’t know what the USIP does: it saves lives. Lives of U.S. servicemembers, of military personnel, and civilians around the world. The United States Institute for Peace stops conflicts before they start and works to defuse crises. The Institute provides conflict resolution teams and skills that are vital to our diplomats and our military forces serving in conflict zones abroad.
“They’re often quiet successes, rarely grabbing headlines. After all, a war that doesn’t happen won’t draw near the attention of a raging conflict.
“And military leaders agree. On September 1st, a distinguished group of retired three- and four-star flag officers who have served our country valiantly during some of its most challenging conflicts wrote to Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi expressing deep concerns about efforts here in the House to eliminate funding for USIP.
“I ask unanimous consent that this letter be entered into the Congressional Record.
“USIP is neither a Republican nor a Democratic institution. The institution was created in 1984 by bipartisan legislation signed into law by President Reagan. And since then, USIP has saved the United States billions of dollars by investing in peace.
“And let me share just one short example of the incredible work that USIP has done.
“After 52 years of war and more than a quarter million lives lost, Colombia’s armed conflict ended with the signing of a peace agreement last year in Cartagena.
“The peace agreement was reached in no small part thanks to the incredible work of United States Institute for Peace and its chief of operations in Colombia, Ginny Bouvier. Under her leadership, USIP trained female mediators, religious organizations, Afro-Colombian leaders, and many others in methods to support peaceful resolution of the conflict.
“Ginny recently passed away, far too young, at age 58. But I would like to believe that her legacy of peace-building in Colombia can live on through continued congressional support for USIP.
“So I urge my colleagues to join me in rejecting this harmful amendment, and I yield back to Mrs. Lowey.”
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