Ranking Member Lee Floor Remarks in Opposition to the 2024 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Funding Bill

2023-09-28 10:02

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-12), Ranking Member of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks on the House Floor in opposition to H.R. 4665, the fiscal year 2024 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill:

– As Prepared For Delivery –

Mr. Speaker, I rise to oppose HR 4665. This bill would impose devastating cuts on programs meant to keep both America and the world safe.

This Republican bill would slash the allocation for international programs by nearly one third—to a level not seen since 2009. Do my Republican colleagues really think our international challenges have shrunk? What world are they living in?

The bill undermines the fight against climate change, and it would destroy our influence at the United Nations, during a time when China and Russia are working to expand their voice and role. Most outrageously, the bill would gut programs intended to help the most vulnerable people in the world, undermining American global leadership, and making a mockery of our humanitarian values.

I have spent much of my time in Congress talking about the 3Ds of our national security – diplomacy, development and defense. Each of these has a role to play in keeping our country safe and secure, and creating a world where kids and grandkids can prosper. The SFOPS bill is supposed to fund two of those Ds—diplomacy and development.

Instead, this Republican bill throws the 3Ds completely out of whack. If House Republicans get their way, the Pentagon would receive 20 times, let me repeat that, 20 times, what this bill invests in diplomacy and development combined. Even our military leaders have spoken out against cuts to diplomacy and development because they know gutting these programs makes their job harder. Former Defense Secretary Mattis has famously said, “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I have to buy more ammunition.”

Colleagues, the PRC now has more embassies and diplomats around the world than any other nation—including more than the United States does. But Republicans would cut funding for our embassies and diplomats by one point two billion dollars.

We have watched as the PRC challenges us at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, working to insert their values of authoritarianism and disrespect for human rights. But Republicans are proposing to cut all funding to the United Nations, leaving our adversaries waiting to fill the void we will leave behind.

The Republican bill asks our diplomats and development professionals to do more monitoring, reporting and oversight, but shortchanges them of the funding they need for operations and staffing.

The bill invites the culture wars into our foreign policy by making diversity, drag queens, and Critical Race Theory bogeymen distracting us from the real life or death challenges facing our world.

The bill also takes a dishonest approach to the threat posed by climate change. Right now, people all over the world are confronting the impacts of human-caused climate change—life threatening temperatures, crop failures, floods and severe weather. They need help confronting the problem we largely created. Yet the majority pretends that our climate finance investments are about controlling the planet’s temperature, like some sort of global thermostat.

That’s not how it works. We have countries that might literally not exist in a generation because of the changes that are already happening. We are spending billions every year both here at home and overseas dealing with humanitarian emergencies and responding to ever stronger storms, raging fires, and devastating droughts. Failing to invest in adapting to the new reality means continued and escalating conflict and crisis which puts Americans and people everywhere at risk.

Around the world, 218 million women still do not have access to the tools needed to decide when and how to have a baby. While hundreds of thousands of them die in childbirth, we are going to make it harder for women to access care through both policies and reduced funding in this bill.

I am most upset about how this bill attacks efforts to strengthen diversity in our foreign policy workforce. The rich diversity of the United States is one of our greatest strengths. People around the world—religious and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people—look first to the United States for support and inspiration as they seek to claim their human rights. It is unimaginable to me that my Republican colleagues see a threat in efforts to make sure that our diplomats and development experts reflect and respect that same diversity.

The world is watching us. The world is full of threats that don’t respect borders, from climate change, to pandemics, to assertive dictators. Most countries would prefer to partner with the United States to confront these challenges. But by bringing this bill, with these cuts, to the House floor, the Republican majority broadcasts a clear message to the world—"take a hike”. Trust me—the PRC is ready to take advantage of our absence.

Colleagues, it is September 28th. The government shuts down in two days. Yet, today, we will consider a bill that has no chance of becoming law. House Democrats will not support a bill if it means turning our backs to the world’s most vulnerable women or the looming threat of climate change. In the end, final appropriations bills will need bicameral and bipartisan support and today, we will likely get further away from that goal, not closer. This is wasting everyone’s time.

I urge my colleagues to oppose this destructive bill. I reserve the balance of my time.


118th Congress