March 23, 2021

Menendez Opening Remarks at Nomination Hearing for Ambassador Samantha Power to Serve as USAID Administrator

“As we work to address COVID-19, inequality, migration, climate change at home, if the U.S. is not contributing leadership and resources to address these issues globally, then our security at home is tenuous at best.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following opening statement at this morning’s full Committee hearing on the nomination of Ambassador Samantha Power to serve as Administrator to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Power previously served as Ambassador to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017.

 

“If confirmed, you will have your work cut out for you. However, I have great confidence in your experience and abilities, not to mention your passion for making this world a better place,” Chairman Menendez said. “We would expect you to engage with this Committee as a partner and asset in accomplishing USAID’s mission. This committee has a long bipartisan history of support for USAID, and I expect you to engage in frequent and open dialogue to help sustain that support.”

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

 

“This hearing will come to order.

Today we are considering the nomination of Ambassador Samantha Power to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, known to all of us as USAID.

Ambassador Power, congratulations on your nomination. Thank you for your willingness to return to public service. It is a pleasure to welcome you back before the committee. When I chaired your 2013 hearing to be UN Ambassador, I said you were ‘impeccably qualified’ for the position. Your experience, drive, and dedication to the advancement of humanitarian principles also I believe make you impeccably qualified to be the next USAID Administrator.

Before I go any further, I understand that our distinguished colleague from Massachusetts, a member of the Committee, wants to introduce you this morning. We will turn to him first. Senator Markey?

Thank you very much, Senator Markey. We know that you both sit here and on other Committees, so if you have other work to do, we certainly invite you to either join us if you can, or if not, we will see you back a little later.

That was a rousing introduction – but with one flaw. I thought it was extraordinary. As a Yankee fan, I just can’t be quiet. Anyhow.

Let me start off.

Ambassador, in his inaugural address, President Biden said that ‘we will lead not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.’ The work the dedicated professionals of USAID do exemplifies that example – supporting people around the world to advance democratic and citizen-responsive governance, help to ensure fair treatment and access to opportunity for vulnerable minorities, and provide life-saving relief on behalf of the American people. We know that these core values are the strength of our own country, and that promoting them abroad contributes to more stability and stability worldwide.

As I emphasized to Secretary Blinken at his nomination hearing, the U.S. must reassert itself as a global leader capable of confronting complex challenges. As we work to address COVID-19, inequality, migration, climate change at home, if the U.S. is not contributing leadership and resources to address these issues globally, then our security at home is tenuous at best.

Ambassador, there are few people as familiar with many of today’s complex, long-running conflicts as you are. As you well know, if confirmed, you will be responsible for responding to new and renewed conflicts from Venezuela to Ethiopia to Burma, human- and resource- driven conflicts, which have victimized hundreds of thousands of civilians, forcing millions to flee their homes.

Political crises in Latin America have caused unprecedented humanitarian disasters. I am encouraged by the Biden administration’s plans to renew our commitment to achieving a diplomatic solution to the Venezuela crisis, where USAID has provided significant humanitarian and development assistance. In the Northern Triangle countries, addressing rampant crime, weak governance, corruption, and displacement must also be a top U.S. priority as stability there directly impacts the security and prosperity of the United States.

Across Africa, we have seen democratic backsliding in various countries, along with persistent terrorist threats and conflicts that have cost thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

In particular, the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray province is contributing to destabilizing the whole Horn of Africa, while increased terrorism has thrown the Sahel into chaos. 

Meanwhile, climate change is increasing food insecurity and natural resource scarcity, and threatening the very existence of many small island nations, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world.

At the same time that you’ll be confronting these global challenges, you will also need to rebuild and restore USAID as an institution.

Successful U.S. foreign policy rests on the appropriate utilization of the ‘three Ds’: Defense, Diplomacy and Development. Unfortunately, the previous administration had anywhere from skepticism to disdain for those last of those two.

While I believe Ambassador Green, for whom I have great respect, believed and invested in the mission of the Agency, the years after his departure have taken a serious toll on Agency morale, strained USAID’s relationships with its implementing partners; and weakened trust in America.

The Agency needs internal attention, and I recommend that if confirmed you listen to USAID’s civil servants, Foreign Service Officers, and Foreign Service Nationals to explain what USAID needs.

As you may know, USAID underwent a major reorganization spearheaded by Ambassador Green. While I believe he approached this effort with the best of intentions, the ultimate execution was lacking. I do believe the Agency must be nimble enough to responds to changing and pressing challenges and I trust that you will make the ongoing reorganization work better, and consult with this committee on how that might be achieved.

So, in conclusion, if confirmed, you will have your work cut out for you. However, I have great confidence in your experience and abilities, not to mention your passion for making this world a better place. We would expect you to engage with this Committee as a partner and asset in accomplishing USAID’s mission. This committee has a long bipartisan history of support for USAID, and I expect you to engage in frequent and open dialogue to help sustain that support. I look forward to hearing from you today. We welcome your family, which is always part of the sacrifices that those of us who are in public service make, and with that let me turn to the distinguished Ranking Member, Senator Risch.”

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