House panel tries to regain influence with swift approval of State Department bill

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“The lack of a voice in the intervening years has eroded our foreign policy leverage with our primary agency of jurisdiction, obviously the Department of State,” said committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). “By adopting this bill this morning the committee strengthens its role and exercises effective oversight of the Department of State and fulfills our obligation to the American public.”

The committee's top Democrat, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), said the bill, while imperfect, represents “the best shot at moving forward.”

“If we want our committee to be taken seriously so that our jurisdiction is protected ... then we need to report legislation that at the very least can be passed by the full House,” he said.

The bill authorizes funding for most programs at the levels agreed to in the fiscal 2012 omnibus bill, Ros-Lehtinen said. The funding levels are below the State Department's request for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 and does not set numbers or policy waivers for country-specific bilateral assistance.

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