September 07, 2017

Van Hollen Fights for Diplomacy, Development, and National Security in the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill

Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, voted to support the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill. In the face of President Trump's proposed 32 percent cut to the budgets of the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), this bill instead makes key investments in American diplomacy, development, and national security.

"Diplomacy and development are critical pillars of our national security - playing a vital role in keeping us safe from the many threats we face and promoting our country's core values of democracy, human rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality. This legislation commits to American leadership and engagement abroad - and is a strong rebuke to President Trump's efforts to undermine America's alliances, obligations, and principles," said Senator Van Hollen. "The cuts proposed by the Trump Administration - and the worldview they represent - cede American influence and strength and ultimately leave us more vulnerable to security threats. I will continue to fight them at every turn."

Senator Van Hollen offered two amendments during the markup, both of which were passed by the full Committee.

The first amendment codifies the position of the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration - preventing President Trump from dismantling the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and moving its refugee resettlement functions to the Department of Homeland Security. This amendment has earned bipartisan support with Senators Collins, Leahy, Durbin, and Shaheen cosponsoring and it was adopted unanimously. In July, dozens of former U.S. diplomats and national security officials - who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations - wrote Secretary of State Tillerson to urge him to sustain this bureau, arguing that dismantling it would undercut the United States' ability to manage foreign crises and protect the American people. The amendment counters the Trump Administration's attempts to enact severe and discriminatory standards for refugee entry and resettlement into the United States, and offers critical support for refugees, migrants, and other vulnerable populations abroad.

The second amendment would prohibit U.S. taxpayer dollars from facilitating or supporting the sale of weapons to Turkey's Presidential Protection Directorate - Erodgan's personal security forces. This prohibition would remain in place until Secretary of State certifies that Turkey has made demonstrable progress on human rights and democracy Senator Leahy cosponsored this amendment, which was adopted by the Committee. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration notified Congress of its intent to sell $1.2 million in semiautomatic handguns to the Turkish President Erdogan's security forces in May - and the next day, those same forces brutally attacked peaceful protestors outside of their embassy in Washington, DC. During the markup, Senator Van Hollen, Senator Graham, and Senator Leahy agreed to work with the State Department to ensure that the Turkish National Police, which have served as Erdogan's arm in suppressing dissent, are also held accountable for their actions.

Senator Van Hollen fought for a series of specific resources, including:

  • $35 million for economic assistance and Foreign Military Financing to Sri Lanka, which was eliminated under President Trump's budget. This funding - which includes civilian and security assistance - will help move Sri Lanka's new democratic government and strengthen U.S.-Sri Lankan relations.
  • $425,000 for Greece's International Military Education and Training program, which is $275,000 higher than President Trump's budget request. Greece is a frontline state in the fight against terrorism, and cuts to this program over the last decade have significantly limited our ability educate and train our ally's military officers. This is an effective and wise investment toward a key component of U.S. security assistance in an increasingly important part of the world.
  • $3.11 billion for the Migration and Refugee Assistance program, which was slashed to $2.746 billion in President Trump's budget. Without this additional funding, an estimated 3.5 million refugees and Internally Displaced Persons would not receive assistance globally, including about 1 million in the Middle East and 1.1 million in Africa.
  • $50 million for Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance, which was eliminated under President Trump's budget. This funding meets short-term, life-sustaining needs of refugees while supporting durable solutions like voluntary repatriation. It will allow us to honor our humanitarian commitments and relations with countries that look to the United States for assistance as a world leader.
  • $1.449 billion in funding to maintain our contributions for international organizations, including the United Nations (UN). These organizations are important tools for promoting peace, protecting human rights, providing humanitarian assistance, and safeguarding the environment.
  • Funding for peacekeeping, including $1.382 billion in the Contributions to International Peacekeeping account and $479.45 million in the Peacekeeping Operations account. These accounts will fund expanded UN missions in South Sudan and Mali, and support the State Department's Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). GPOI has facilitated the deployment of more than 197,000 personnel from 38 countries to 29 peace operations around the world.
  • $45 million for USAID's work on antiretroviral (ARV)-based microbicide technology. This allows for women to use a monthly vaginal ring to safely help prevent HIV infection in women. Women, who bear the greatest burden of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, often don't have access existing prevention methods. As a female-initiated product, microbicides can offer women choices and empower them to make important decisions about their own health. The International Partnership for Microbicides is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland.
  • $26 million for American Schools and Hospitals Abroad program, which provides assistance to schools, libraries, and medical centers outside the United States that serve as study and demonstration centers for American ideas and practices. It supports leaders who are committed to American values and who understand the tangible economic, political, and social benefits produced by a commitment to democracy.
  • $37.884 million for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), which works to prevent, reduce, and resolve violent conflicts abroad that threaten U.S. national security. In theaters of warfare and extremism such as Iraq or Afghanistan, USIP offers vital support to U.S. stabilization efforts. USIP's programs to reduce violence and extremism help sustain hard-won military gains against ISIS and other terrorist groups.
  • $788 million for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which works to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy and supports Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts. President Trump's budget included many large reductions to different languages and services - and cutting these services would create a void that Russian and Chinese news services are hoping to fill.
  • $137.5 million for UNICEF, which works in 190 countries and territories to improve the lives of children and their families. This funding will help provide lifesaving assistance for mothers and children and expand on current programs for girls' education and child protection.
  • $17 million for the Asia Foundation, which operates in 18 countries, supporting development programs that strengthen governance, rule of law, women's empowerment and environmental resilience.
  • $1 million in sustained funding for the victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Senator Van Hollen also supported robust funding for the International Affairs Budget; the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; programs that combat human trafficking and modern slavery; Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition programs; the Peace Corps; international basic education programs; bilateral tuberculosis control programs; the polio eradication activities of USAID; the U.S. African Development Foundation; international family planning and reproductive health programs; the Department of State's Migration and Refugee Assistance and Emergency Refugee and the Migration Assistance accounts; USAID's International Disaster Assistance account; full assessed and voluntary contributions for the International Atomic Energy Agency; and Department of State Educational and Cultural Exchange programs.