Senate panel clears $52.1B foreign operations spending bill

The bill passed 4-1, with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) objecting. The top Republican on the subcommittee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), praised the bipartisan nature of the bill even though he objects to continued funding for nonprofit groups that provide abortions, which Republicans will seek to defund when the bill goes before the full committee.

Graham in particular praised the funding for the State Department's proposed $770 million incentive fund for the Middle East and North Africa, which aims to support democratic and free-market reforms in the region. Funding for the program was not included in the $48.3 billion bill House appropriators passed last week.

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“This fund,” he said, “gives the State Department the ability to go into countries like Tunisia and Libya that are at a crossroads and come up with the financial assistance to stabilize those countries.”

The Senate bill is $2.6 billion below the president’s budget request, and $1.2 billion below the fiscal 2012 level.