May 11, 2022

Menendez Opening Remarks at Hearing on USAID FY2023 Budget Request

WASHINGTON –  U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following opening remarks at this afternoon’s full Committee hearing to review the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) budget request for FY2023. Testifying before the Committee was USAID Administrator Samantha Power.

“When it comes to responding to natural or man-made disaster, our foreign aid programs should help save the lives of those in dire need around the world not on the basis of politics, but out of moral obligation,” Chairman Menendez said. “When we don’t address economic challenges, it leads to destabilization. When we don’t promote prosperity, it leads to human suffering. When we don’t show up, it gives the bad guys a chance to get a foothold. …This is the standard that has been used for decades, and I trust you are committed to fulfilling that vision at USAID, and to elevating the work of USAID’s development and assistance professionals.”

Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s remarks as delivered below:

“This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee come to order.

Administrator Power, thank you for appearing today.

I am pleased you have been an engaged partner when it comes to the United States’ humanitarian aid and international development initiatives.

While I may not agree with every element of the request, it is refreshing to see a USAID budget proposal that demonstrates seriousness and thoughtfulness.

And with the House just passing the Ukraine Supplemental package, which provides nearly 4.4 billion dollars for USAID, I am pleased and hope that we are going to move it quickly in the Senate, maybe as early as tomorrow.

Obviously this is a lot of money and we need to make sure that the executive branch engages in meaningful ongoing consultation as the money is being spent, and that we are conducting appropriate oversight.

Under the Trump administration, the value of economic development and foreign assistance in advancing U.S. foreign policy was met with skepticism. They hobbled USAID from fulfilling its mission, demoralizing the workforce and risking decades of U.S. investment into some of the most vulnerable parts of the world. 

The transactional approach the Trump administration took through USAID towards providing assistance to countries at the start of the pandemic was appalling.

When it comes to responding to natural or man-made disaster, our foreign aid programs should help save the lives of those in dire need around the world not on the basis of politics, but out of moral obligation.

This is the standard that has been used for decades, and I trust you are committed to fulfilling that vision at USAID, and to elevating the work of USAID’s development and assistance professionals.

Obviously our immediate attention is on the fallout of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian forces have bombed maternity wards and kindergartens. They have used sexual violence as a weapon of war. They have executed civilians, hands tied behind their backs.

In addition to these war crimes, Putin’s invasion has precipitated a refugee crisis and exacerbated a major global food security crisis across Africa and the Middle East.

As we deliver humanitarian relief in Europe and beyond, the United States must elevate the needs of women, girls, and other at-risk populations and support neighboring countries hosting a huge influx of Ukrainian refugees. 

And while addressing this crisis and its fallout, we cannot afford to overlook the rest of the world. When commodity prices soar – that affects everyone. I am extremely concerned about the risk of famine in the Horn of Africa.

Additionally, the retreat of democracy in Africa is threatening gains made in the Sahel, and dashing the aspirations for participatory politics of millions across the continent.

Whether it is conflict in Ethiopia or kleptocracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or a coup in Sudan, USAID is America’s first responder, supporting democracy, good governance and providing life-saving assistance to those in need. 

Health systems around the globe have been strained from the last two years of the pandemic.

COVID hospitalizations and deaths are down but the threat remains. New COVID sub-variants continue to emerge. I am not convinced we are prepared.

From vaccine distribution to strengthening our preparedness, this is an issue that effects the safety of everyone on the planet, and remains a national security threat here in the United States. USAID is a critical part of the United States efforts to prevent, detect and respond to future pandemic threats.

Along with Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean were hard hit by COVID-19. At the same time the region is struggling against a resurgence of authoritarianism from Cuba to Venezuela and now the consolidation of the region’s third dictatorship in Nicaragua.

Violent criminals from El Salvador to Mexico are undermining civilian security, exacerbating the forced migration and refugee crisis across the region.

Our neighbors in the hemisphere need our assistance. We need to expand inclusive economic opportunity and strengthen democratic institutions.

At a time of such great upheaval and distress, I am reassured that we have a USAID Administrator who bore witness to the siege of Sarajevo, and Putin’s aggression in Chechnya.

To successfully provide emergency aid, support democratic governance, empower women and vulnerable populations, USAID must be a place where all Americans can serve.

I look forward to hearing your plans for modernizing the workforce to meet today’s challenges. In particular, how you will integrate the Chief Diversity Officer into these efforts.

And I hope that by partnering with small businesses here at home, our aid programs can have positive impacts both in the U.S. and abroad.

In closing I would like to reinforce just how critical all these efforts are.

When we don’t address economic challenges, it leads to destabilization. When we don’t promote prosperity, it leads to human suffering. When we don’t show up, it gives the bad guys a chance to get a foothold.

Administrator Power, I know you strongly believe in these principles. And I look forward to your testimony.

With let me turn to the Ranking Member for his opening remarks.”

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