July 20, 2021

Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Nominations Hearing for Assistant Secretaries of State, Deputy USAID Administrator

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee nomination hearing for Dr. Karen Donfried, nominee to be assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, the Honorable Mary Catherine Phee, nominee to be assistant secretary of State for African affairs, Ms. Anne A. Witkowsky, nominee to be assistant secretary of State for conflict and stabilization operations, and Ms. Paloma Adams-Allen, nominee to be a deputy administrator to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for management and resources.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Certainly you’ve raised a number of the issues that are going to be facing these people.

“And, thank you, each of you, for your willingness to serve, and your families because they always share the sacrifice.

“I want to start with the nomination of assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs.

“For starters, I am concerned the administration has refused to use PEESA sanctions to shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. This is a continued aggravation for us and I’d like to see that resolved. Putin has boasted that its completion will be a victory for Russian power. I will also note that any deal with the Russians would be in violation of U.S. law, and I expect to hear more from you on this topic, Dr. Donfried.

“On Chinese malign influence, Europe is a key partner. I’ve been encouraged to see increased U.S.-European discussions on working together to combat China’s actions.

“In Georgia, I’m increasingly worried by the steps backward. In the past weeks, more than 50 journalists were beaten – one of them died from his injuries, and several judges were pushed onto the Supreme Court in contravention of the April 19 agreement. I know Senator Shaheen shares my concerns in that regard, we’ve had a number of discussions on that. I hope you will work to address the issues with Georgia’s government.

“Ukraine remains a big focus on the Hill. We were disappointed to see the administration’s refusal to send additional help to Ukraine this spring in order that they might defend themselves from their belligerent neighbor. I hope you will address this today

“On to the nomination of assistant secretary for African Affairs.

“The Biden Administration has stated that “Africa is a priority,” but it’s unclear where Africa fits in that priority list.

“First, I am troubled by the conflict and humanitarian situation in Tigray. However, I am concerned that the U.S. is so focused on the Tigray crisis that it is ignoring the significant challenges to peace and democracy we face across Ethiopia. This is a complex challenge, I get that. I look forward to hearing how we navigate Ethiopia’s challenges and the other crises across the Horn of Africa which is becoming more and more of a focus and a crisis.

“Aside from Ethiopia, I remain deeply concerned about the lack of initiative the international community has shown – including our European, French and African partners – in pushing for a resolution to the Crisis in Cameroon, as well as corruption challenges by the regimes in Zimbabwe and South Sudan.

“African countries are crucial partners in our fight to combat malign Chinese influence. The United States remains the top contributor of health and humanitarian assistance to Africa, but we must do more to commit ourselves to building strong economic and security partnerships with our African allies.

“Next, we have the nomination of assistant secretary of State for conflict and stabilization operations.

“Like many, I am concerned about this administration’s response to the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. It is clear the administration had no plans in place to manage the withdrawal and provide for the people that worked side by side with our troops. 

“President Biden publicly stated that the administration was “working closely with Congress to change the authorization legislation” in order to expedite the processing of Afghan Special Immigrant Visas, but I have yet to see such outreach on the specific legislative fixes they are seeking.

“Finally, we have the nomination of a deputy administrator to USAID for management and resources.

“U.S. foreign assistance can help advance the national security, economic, and humanitarian interests of the United States, but it must be thoughtfully targeted and designed to ensure the greatest possible impact.

“The responsibility for aligning roughly two-thirds of the U.S. foreign assistance budget with the strategic objectives of the United States overseas falls here.

“I am eager to hear about the modernization of USAID’s workforce and operations and stretch aid dollars further, so we can save lives and advance U.S. interests.

“We have a lot to cover today, so with that, I yield back.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.