By Erik Wasson - 03/02/11 03:22 PM EST
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Wednesday decried House GOP cuts to the foreign affairs budget passed as part of a seven-month spending bill last month.
Kerry described the cuts, which he said will decimate food and health aid for the global poor, are un-Christian.
“There is something about these cuts that does violence to the Judeo-Christian ethic so many people claim to uphold,” Kerry said.
“As I have told Speaker Boehner and Chairman Rogers and many others, the 16 percent cut to state and USAID would be devastating to our national security,” Clinton said.
“Now, there have always been moments of temptation in our country to resist obligations beyond our border,” she added, noting how the United States walked away from Afghanistan in the Cold War. “But those savings came at an unspeakable cost — one we are still paying, 10 years later, in money and lives.”
She said that beyond the humanitarian and moral ground for aid, helping developing countries serves strategic interests. “We are in a competition with China,” she said. She noted that China is wining and dining leaders and if the United States pulls back from engagement, it will hurt our influence in the world.
“I understand and agree that the American people are rightly and naturally concerned about our national debt ... now would be absolutely the wrong time to pull back,” Clinton said.
At the hearing, Clinton and Kerry said that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must step down without delay.
“He has lost all legitimacy. We cannot be half-way about that goal,” Kerry said.
“We have joined the Libyan people in demanding Gadhafi must go — now without further violence or bloodshed,” Clinton said.
Kerry called for an international no-fly zone over Libya and Clinton said that no options are off the table.
Kerry said that despite the U.S. deficit, the Congress must supply a package of increased aid to the Middle East to aid the transition to democracy begun by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.
“We can either pay now … or we will certainly pay later in much higher terms,” Kerry said.
He added that $53 billion for international affairs “is in fact a very small investment for the type of return we get.”