Appropriators release bill slashing State Dept.

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released a 2012 spending bill that slashes State Department funding and foreign aid.

The committee is operating under the low discretionary spending levels in the House-passed budget and independently of the debt-ceiling negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House. The bill will be marked up Wednesday in the subcommittee.

The $39.6 billion proposal cuts spending by $8.59 billion from current levels and $11.23 billion from President Obama’s 2012 budget request. Excluding funding for the “War on Terror,” the bill is a $5 billion — or 11 percent — cut to core functions.

House Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash) said the bill would result in layoffs at the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The two entities would see their budgets cut by $3.9 billion from current funding levels. 

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“Unfortunately, we’ve seen this time and time again this year: The majority has driven away bipartisan support for appropriations bills by coupling irresponsible cuts with ideological riders,” Dicks said. 

“This makes it impossible to consider the State and Foreign Operations bill in the same bipartisan way we have considered the other bills that address our nation’s security. Thus far this year, we’ve worked cooperatively in the House, with broad bipartisan support, to pass both the Defense and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bills.”

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, defended the cuts in a statement.

“This bill reforms and refocuses the way we spend our foreign aid” she said. “We have established tough oversight and accountability measures that will make sure my constituents’ tax dollars are not wasted overseas while making sure we support our national security priorities and key allies.” 

The legislation contains a total of $17.7 billion for bilateral economic assistance — a decrease of $3.5 billion — while it also slashes funding for such multilateral organizations as the World Bank. Multilateral assistance is cut by $729 million below 2011 figures.

The bill also contains a number of riders directed at the practice of abortion. It reinstates the so-called Mexico City Policy, which opponents call the "global gag rule," that prohibits U.S. assistance to foreign nongovernmental organizations that “promote” or perform abortion. 

The bill also prohibits funding for the U.N. Population Fund, as well as needle-exchange programs.

“It is unacceptable that the majority proposes to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, which prohibits recipients of U.S. health assistance from providing the most truthful and comprehensive healthcare possible to women in need,” subcommittee ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in reaction.