Washington D.C. – Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democratic member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, gave the following statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s full committee hearing “Advancing U.S. Interests Abroad: The FY 2015 Foreign Affairs Budget.”
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing to review the Administration’s fiscal year 2015 international affairs budget request.
“Mr. Secretary, it’s a pleasure to welcome you back to the Committee. I want to begin by commending you for your tireless work on a wide range of critical issues. Your efforts underscore the great importance of continued U.S. engagement in the world and strong American leadership.
“At a time of crisis in the Middle East, Central Africa, and now Europe, the international affairs budget request supports our diplomatic and development efforts in these and other regions. It provides critical funding to strengthen our allies, fight the spread of infectious disease, combat terrorism, and support many other essential activities.
“The international affairs budget also stimulates job creation and economic growth here at home. By helping countries build their economies and develop free markets, we make it easier for American companies to sell their products abroad.
“The budget request also provides critical resources to help ensure the security of our diplomats and development workers. These brave men and women serve on the front lines every day, and we must ensure there is adequate funding to keep them safe.
“Finally, the international affairs budget includes humanitarian assistance that reflects the compassion and generosity of the American people. While we can’t solve all of the world’s problems on our own, we have a moral obligation to help ensure that hungry children don’t starve, that refugees displaced by war or natural disaster have basic shelter, and that the poorest of the poor do not succumb to easily preventable diseases.
“All together, the international affairs budget accounts for only about one percent of the federal budget. Let me repeat that – one percent of the federal budget. In my view, that’s a very sound investment in our security, economy, and humanitarian goals.
“Secretary Kerry, I know you agree with me that the United States must maintain its leadership in global health. However, I am frustrated to see that the budget request proposes significant reductions to numerous global health programs. I’d like to work with you to ensure we have the funding necessary to maintain the tremendous gains that have been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and to address emerging threats like pandemic influenza.
“Mr. Secretary, on Ukraine, I believe we must continue to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and make it clear to President Putin that there will be serious consequences for his aggression.
“Chairman Royce and I are drafting legislation on Ukraine, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that the United States provides a robust assistance package to the new Ukrainian government and imposes appropriate sanctions against human rights abusers and those who are complicit in the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
“I am also deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in Syria. Nearly three years after the start of the war, Assad remains in power, and offshoots of Al Qaeda are growing stronger.
Refugees continue to spill into neighboring countries, and we are all horrified by their stories of violence, torture and starvation. Secretary Kerry, I hope you will use this opportunity to discuss the Administration’s strategy to end the terrible conflict in Syria.
“Iran remains among the biggest threats to our national security, even as negotiations resume next week with the P5+1. I hope these talks succeed, but I agree with you that our engagement with Tehran cannot be based on trust. Iran continues to be a bad actor on many fronts, supporting terrorism, violating human rights and sowing instability in the region. We must keep that in mind as we negotiate on their nuclear program.
“I also want to recognize your efforts to facilitate a framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. There is still much work to be done, but you are helping to establish the foundation for a lasting agreement, and I hope there is sufficient political will to take meaningful steps toward a two state solution. In the meantime, I am glad that the budget request fully funds aid to Israel and provides for Israel’s urgent security needs.
“Finally, here in our own hemisphere, I am deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s crackdown on peaceful protesters and attack on press freedoms. And in Haiti, I’m pleased that U.S. reconstruction assistance has accelerated, and thank Chairman Royce for expanding our Committee’s oversight.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman and I look forward to the Secretary’s testimony.”