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Engel Statement at Foreign Assistance Budget Hearing

– As Delivered –

Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following statement at a full committee hearing at which United States Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green testified on the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 foreign assistance budget request and policy priorities:

“Welcome everyone, this morning. We convene this morning to get answers about the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 foreign assistance budget request. We’ll hear testimony from Mark Green, one of our former members, who’s moved on to bigger and better things, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development and a former member of this body and this committee. So welcome back Administrator. Thank you for your service. Welcome to the public and members of the press as well.

“I’m a firm believer in development as a way to advance American interests and security that is rooted firmly in our values. Foreign assistance shows our country’s generosity and compassion. It’s. a concrete demonstration of our commitment to human rights and dignity of all people. And to fully appreciate these efforts, you need to see them up close.

“A couple of weeks ago, Ranking Member McCaul and I, along with Mr. Espaillat and Mr. Curtis, and some members of the Judiciary Committee, visited El Salvador. USAID’s work there was inspiring. It was helping to foster skills, provide opportunities for desperate families—families who without this bit of help might have no option but to flee the poverty and violence in their communities, who might decide it was a better bet to make the dangerous journey from El Salvador to our own southern border. But the work we are doing there at the cost of pennies to the taxpayer, is giving these people a shot at a prosperous, safe life in their home counties.

“And while we were there, we found out the President decided to cut funding for all these initiatives. That’s just one anecdote.

“This budget I’m holding up, it’s an entire policy based on the same kind of thinking. It would seek to slash our investment in development by 32 percent. So its cutting off your nose to spite your face. It’s just silly.

“If this budget were put into effect it wouldn’t just be Salvadorians pushed aside by the heartless and harmful approach to foreign policy. It would be victims of flooding in Mozambique; Syrians and Iraqis seeking to protect their communities from the next generation of al-Qaeda or ISIS; citizens of young, unstable democracies where Russia is trying to meddle and interfere; and tuberculosis and malaria and AIDS patients all around the world. 

“Core humanitarian accounts and democracy and governance programs slashed by 40 percent. Maternal and child health programs cut by a quarter. Food security, nutrition assistance, basic education all chopped by roughly half. Food for Peace zeroed out completely.

“What an ugly picture this budget paints of America! And what a signal of withdrawal and disengagement it sends—and you can bet China, Russia, and Iran are listening!

“Mr. Administrator, we should have spared the trees that it took to print these budgets because this Congress will not allow the gutting of American development efforts. It was tried in the past two years. We fought back on a bipartisan basis and we’re going to do it again.

“There are simply too many challenges around the world that demand American leadership. From the flight of more than a million and a half Venezuelans to Colombia. And Mr. McCaul and I were on that border last week, the Venezuelan-Columbian border, and it was heartbreaking to see so many people getting food – a very little bit of food and just basically starving and just having no hope for the future. It was just heart-wrenching. So we take the flight of more than a million and a half Venezuelans to Colombia and throughout the Americas. to the Rohingya crisis in Burma and Bangladesh, to the remarkable growth of democracy in Ethiopia.

“There are too many opportunities to build bridges of friendship and understanding. There are too many people struggling and suffering for us to just turn our backs and say, “Figure it out on your own.”

“Of course, not everything depends on budget numbers. Dangerous policies like the global gag rule are doing real harm. This approach to women’s health is causing clinics to close, blocking access to HIV tests, and denying women and girls basic health care from doctors and nurses they trust. It amounts to politicians in Washington punishing poor women around the world to score points for a domestic political agenda. It should be reversed.

“Mark, I know from your time in the House on this committee, your service as ambassador, and your time at the helm of USAID that you sincerely care about American development efforts. When I heard you were appointed, I was delighted and nothing you’ve done has made me change my mind. But I don’t envy your having to defend this budget request. I know our members are eager for a frank discussion on these matters, and I’m grateful that you’re with us this morning. So again I want to thank you.”

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