House GOP unveils spending bill with $5.8B cut to foreign aid

House Republicans on Thursday unveiled a 2014 spending bill with a 26 percent cut to foreign aid.

The bill would authorize $17.3 billion in foreign aid for the fiscal year starting in October, a reduction of $5.8 billion. The State Department and related agency operating budget would be slashed by $2.4 billion to $14.6 billion, raising the prospect of layoffs in the diplomatic corps.

The legislation also prohibits funding to implement the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which is opposed by the National Rifle Association, and limits aid to Egypt if it does not transition to democracy.

The bill, to be marked up in subcommittee on Friday, completely cuts off funding for multilateral agencies like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

It also fully funds the Obama’s administration's request for $4.8 billion for embassy security in light of the Benghazi attacks.

During last year's presidential campaign, House Republicans came under fire for having proposed cuts to embassy security-related accounts before the Sept. 11 assault that killed four Americans.

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The overall 19 percent cut in the $34 billion legislation is necessitated by a budget standoff between the White House and Congress on larger issues like tax reform and entitlement spending, as well as the House GOP decision to increase defense funding while cutting the rest of the discretionary budget next year.

“Faced with billions of dollars in spending cuts, this bill focuses on national security programs that keep the United States and our allies secure, while anticipating continued change around the world. Funding is prioritized for embassy security, critical strategic partners in the Middle East and Latin America, democracy assistance, and life-saving HIV/AIDS and refugee programs,” subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) said in a statement.

Focusing cuts on the U.N. and foreign aid appears to be the politically safer route to meeting the budget allocation. Polls consistently show public disapproval of foreign aid, and confusion about its relatively small share of the federal budget.  

Supporters of the aid programs argue the goodwill and stability it achieves is cheap compared to the costs of future military action. 

House appropriators say aid for global health and anti-AIDS initiatives are preserved in the bill.

The bill also contains significant policy and funding limitations.

As usual with House GOP funding bill, the measure contains abortion-related restrictions, including the Mexico City policy, which prevents funding for groups that promote abortion.