House bill would cut State Department funding by 14 percent

House bill would cut State Department funding by 14 percent
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The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday proposed a spending bill that would cut 14 percent at the State Department in fiscal 2018 from current levels.

The panel's spending bill for State and Foreign Operations which includes State Department funding and other agencies and programs is $47.4 billion, an overall 17 percent cut. That figure includes $12 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding that does not count toward budget caps.

The cuts, while deep, are less severe than those proposed by President Trump in his budget. The president's blueprint would have cut State's funding by roughly twice as much.

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“This bill will target funding to where it’s needed the most, ensure U.S. dollars are being put to good use to expand democracy and peace, and provide critical humanitarian assistance in war-torn, disaster-affected, and impoverished areas of the world,” said Appropriations Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney FrelinghuysenNJ House candidate takes dig at Trump's Charlottesville response in campaign ad House passes .2T government funding package for 2018 House approves Harvey aid as debt wrangling begins MORE (R-N.J.).

 

The bill maintains the same $6.1 billion for embassy security, an issue that gained prominence after the 2012 attack in Benghazi.

The bill also withholds funds from the United Nations Security Council and U.N. bodies headed by countries that support terrorism.

But it also provides a waiver for the secretary of State to get around those restrictions for national security reasons.

Similarly, it would cut funding from the Palestinian Authority equivalent to any amount paid out “to prisoners that committed acts of terrorism” or if it forms a government with Hamas, a terrorist group.

The bill would also strengthen rules that prohibit U.S. funding of pro-choice nongovernmental organizations.

Democrats, though, blasted the bill's cuts. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the panel’s ranking member, said the cuts harmed “critical” areas of national security.

“Diplomacy and development are critical pillars of our national security, and a 17 percent cut to these investments will only hurt the United States' ability to help our allies, alleviate poverty and disease, and promote democratic values,” she said.

“By cutting investments in U.S. diplomacy and development, the proposed State and Foreign Operations bill puts our national security at risk," added Caroline Behringer, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"President Trump promised to put ‘America First,’ but what we’ve seen from Republicans so far would do nothing but harm our ability to keep Americans safe and strain the longstanding diplomatic relationships that ensure global security,” she continued.

International development experts also voiced concern that the cuts risked damaging U.S. standing in the world.

“The evidence shows that U.S. taxpayers support effective foreign assistance programs, but serious reform efforts aimed at greater effectiveness and efficiency will be undermined if budget cuts of this sort mark the starting point,” said Scott Morris, the Director of the US Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development.

This story was updated at 5:56 p.m.