WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following opening remarks today at a full committee markup of H.R. 2615, H.R. 2744, H.R. 598, H.R. 2140, H.R. 2023, H.R. 2046, H.Res. 129, H.Res. 372, H.Res. 345:

"We have nine good, bipartisan bills before us today. I’m pleased to support every one of them.

"I want to first mention the United States – Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement act, which I introduced with Ranking Member McCaul, to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

"Mr. McCaul and I visited El Salvador in March just as the Trump Administration announced that it was cutting off assistance to the Northern Triangle countries.

"We saw firsthand the positive impact that U.S. foreign assistance is having in creating much-needed opportunities and stemming violence in those countries. We need to continue to invest in a safer and more prosperous Central America, to create more opportunities for the people living there. This bill does just that by authorizing $577 million in assistance for Central America.

"This is a good bill, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it. Providing foreign assistance helps both people who are in need and furthers our foreign policy objectives. In El Salvador, when Mr. McCaul and I visited programs that teach young adults software engineering, it gave me such pride to see the USAID logo, which was visible to all. 

"So, I’m pleased to support the USAID Branding Modernization Act, a bill I’m proud to cosponsor with Mr. McCaul. This legislation affirms the obligation to brand foreign assistance, as appropriate, and requires a comprehensive review to ensure that USAID-funded projects are appropriately branded in the field.

"Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core American values and should underpin everything we do overseas. So, I’m glad we are considering a number of bills today that promote human rights and freedom of expression.

"First, Ms. Wagner’s Preventing Child Marriage Act, which recognizes the problem of child marriage, particularly among vulnerable refugee populations. Every year, over ten million girls marry before the age of 18.  Early marriage denies children, especially girls, their right to make vital decisions about their well-being, including their health, family, and career. Child brides are less likely to finish their education, and they’re at higher risk for abuse, contracting HIV, and dying from pregnancy.

"This bill tackles this issue by encouraging the US to use its influence to help ensure that displaced populations have the protections and tools to avoid illegal child marriage, work that organizations like UNFPA are doing around the world. It’s a good bill to empower young women and girls, and I’m proud to support it.

"Next, we have House Resolution 129, authored by Representatives Frankel and Wagner, which focuses on the unjust imprisonment of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia. We must continue to call on the Saudi government to release these women immediately. I strongly support this resolution and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

"I’ll turn now to House Resolution 345, which recognizes that freedom of the press is under threat around the world. Thank you to Mr. Chabot and Mr. Schiff for their work on this legislation. There are far too many violent, shocking examples of journalists being imprisoned, tortured, and murdered around the world.  A free press is critical to any democracy—it shines a light on corruption and impunity. This resolution condemns threats to independent media and calls on governments to continue to address journalist safety. It has my strong support.

"America’s alliances and partnerships are another key pillar of our foreign policy. So, I’m glad that a number of the measures in our markup today deal with our allies and diplomacy.

"The Georgia Support Act, authored by Mr. Connolly and Mr. Kinzinger, calls for continued U.S. support for Georgia, an important US partner. Georgia was invaded by Russia in 2008, and the Kremlin continues to attack Georgia through subversive disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks. H.R. 598 provides Georgia with assistance to combat this threat and support its democratic institutions. It’s a good bill to advance the U.S.-Georgia relationship, and I’m glad we are moving it forward today.

"The Protect European Energy Security Act also combats Russia’s increasingly malign encroachment on our European partners. The Nord Stream 2 and the TurkStream gas pipelines from Russia to Germany and Turkey would increase European dependence on Russian energy sources.  H.R 2023 restates our opposition to these projects and requires the Administration to report on how they impact European security and susceptibility to Russian influence.

"Next, we have House Resolution 372, a measure I introduced with Mr. McCaul on the U.S.-Turkey relationship. President Erdogan has tightened his grip on power and rolled back democracy in Turkey. At the same time, he’s cozied up to Putin and purchased the Russian S-400 air and missile defense system. Today’s resolution condemns Erdogan for his authoritarian behavior and calls on Turkey to cancel delivery of the Russian weapons system. Of course, they want us to sell them our system, but we cannot do that if they don’t cancel delivery of the Russian weapons system. They can’t have it both ways – you can’t have a NATO country buying a Russian system.

"Finally, we have Mr. Wright’s Energy Diplomacy Act. For the United States to maintain a leading role on the global stage, the State Department must be positioned to protect and promote favorable energy policies abroad. This bill creates and authorizes the creation of a new Assistant Secretary position to lead this charge.

"So in conclusion, I’m pleased to support all of these bills, and I’d like to thank our members for their hard work."

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