Ranking Member Lee Statement at the Full Committee Markup of the 2024 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Funding Bill

2023-07-12 11:21

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-12), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Appropriations Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2024 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill:

– As Prepared For Delivery –

Thank you Chairman Diaz Balart, Chairwoman Granger, and Ranking Member DeLauro for your leadership. Yes, we have differences of opinion on most issues, but I appreciate the respect and collegiality shown to us in putting this bill together.

I have spent much of my time in Congress talking about the three D’s of our national security – diplomacy, development and defense. Each of these has a role to play in keeping our country safe, strong and secure, along with creating a world our kids and grandkids can enjoy and prosper in. The fiscal 24 SFOPS bill does not adequately invest in these objectives and I am deeply disappointed that I will not be able to support it.

My first concern is the allocation for the programs of the State Department, USAID, and other related programs are at levels not seen since 2009, and are a 30 percent reduction from last year. It puts these three D’s completely out of balance. If House Republicans had their way, the Pentagon would receive 20 times more, let me repeat that, 20 times, what this bill investments in diplomacy and development combined. This is a mistake even our military leaders realize and will make the job of our Defense Department more challenging.

And Republicans seem to realize they have gone too far as well. They have had to make up for the shockingly and absurdly low allocation by including a cynical rescission of a tax credit to our own constituents from the Inflation Reduction Act. Even with these rescissions, this bill is 12 percent lower than our current funding and 24 percent lower than what the Administration says we need to meet our global commitments. In our interconnected world, global investment and engagement are more important than ever. This bill fails to meet the challenges of our time.

Historic migration, a changing climate, growing conflict within and between states, and economic stagnation. These are challenges that cannot be addressed by one country. Our only chance at success is to work together with our partners and allies to tackle these problems. It is not always easy, and we will not always agree with every country about everything. But by holding onto our values and seeking common ground we will make progress on our own interests.

Yet this bill does the opposite. It views the world in a black and white, good and evil paradigm. If we don’t like everything about an organization or can’t control all their actions, this bill prohibits funding it. It is our way or the highway; take it or leave it. We cannot afford this approach if we want to maintain our influence on the world stage.

And believe me, that is not the approach that the government of the PRC is taking. The PRC is not applying litmus tests. They are offering help. Most people I speak to around the world would prefer to partner with the United States. But with this bill, the majority is pushing people into the arms of the PRC for help.

Colleagues, the PRC now has more embassies and diplomats around the world than the United States does. They have overtaken us. How does this bill respond? By cutting the funds that support our embassies and diplomats by $900 million. 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. How does this bill respond? By cutting all funding to the United Nations and its agencies leaving our adversaries waiting to fill the void we will leave behind.

I am deeply disturbed by the path this takes us down. We used to say that politics stops at the water’s edge. However, this is a deeply political bill that seeks to satisfy the most extreme among us without consideration of the real-life consequences for our national security and the well-being of our allies.

The House mark claims to take a hard line on countries that don’t share our values, but it removes conditions on human rights, political prisoners, and corruption in countries we know struggle with these challenges. It 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 wants to pretend 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.

One area that the bill does prioritize is global health, but then undercuts these investments by curtailing partnerships that would make every investment go further and be more sustainable. The World Health Organization is not perfect – no organization is – but coming out of a global pandemic that killed 7 million people globally, we are not going to participate in the one global table focused on coordination around health threats?

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. We are going to cut off UNFPA, the one partner that provides services to mothers and their babies in the hardest places? Today, I will introduce an amendment to correct some of these defaults and I hope my colleagues will listen to how we can support the health of women and their children in a supportive, not punitive, way.

I am very 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. We also need to make sure we are providing support in a way which stands up for human rights and preserves the dignity of those we are assisting. Doing this differentiates the United States from those actors that seek to push their own agenda of marginalizing the most vulnerable people in societies, including members of religious and ethnic minority groups, women, girls, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

I know many of my Republican colleagues support the investments in the SFOPS bill—because I have seen the thousands of requests Members submitted in prior years. Today’s House mark would have severe consequences for United States leadership, our ability to work with others on shared challenges, and our long-term national security. The world is full of threats that don’t respect borders, from climate change, to pandemics, to assertive dictators. We can’t stick our head in the sand and hope it will all go away.

It is deeply disappointing to me that I will not be able to support this bill today. Democrats will not support a bill if it means turning our backs to the world’s most vulnerable women and the looming threat of climate change. We all know that, in the end, final appropriations bills will need bicameral and bipartisan support. This bill as written will not get this support and the House will have squandered an opportunity to present our own, proactive priorities.

I urge my colleagues to oppose this destructive bill and yield back.


118th Congress