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 hearing on the FY2024 United States Agency for International Development (USAID) budget. The witness was The Honorable Samantha Power, administrator of USAID.
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“A year ago, we had this same hearing. Ms. Power, I want to quote you as we start this hearing. You said last year, ‘the work we do abroad matters to Americans here at home – it makes us safer, it makes us more prosperous, and it engenders goodwill that strengthens alliances and global cooperation.’
“Well said. Americans support that proposition. But it must be done well, and it must be done right. In that regard, there are problems with this budget, and I want to talk about them briefly and we’ll drill down as the hearing goes on.
“For example, the budget correctly identifies China’s ‘predatory and coercive activities’ as a major threat to the U.S., our allies, and our interests. Again, well said. It even includes a number of so-called ‘Out-Compete China’ initiatives that I might be willing to support. But the decision to request this as mandatory funding – without legally required offsets – demonstrates a lack of seriousness and an inability to make tough budget decisions.
“Also by example, the administration’s climate and energy policies are self-defeating and misaligned with out-competing China. By rejecting low-carbon energy options – like natural gas – and clinging to a ‘green only’ approach, the administration will not ‘out-compete’ China and it will not reduce carbon.
“Why do I say that? Instead, it will push developing countries toward even more Chinese investment in high-carbon, cheaper energy, while simultaneously creating markets for solar panels built on the backs of Uyghur slave labor in China. This is not an appropriate use of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
“As administrator, you lead a world-class team of humanitarians working to address the highest levels of conflict and displacement in recorded history. Unfortunately, existing humanitarian crises aren’t going away, and, in places like Sudan, are only getting more dangerous.
“Remarkably, with this budget, the administration wants to reduce humanitarian assistance, while increasing contributions to a non-transparent Green Climate Fund to $1.6 billion. This makes no sense.
“Regarding Ukraine, the administration has spoken at length about its unwavering commitment to the Ukrainian people. Yet, this budget request pretends the war isn’t happening and requests no funds. We need an explanation of this.
“Turning to the West Bank and Gaza, the administration restarted Palestinian assistance 2 years ago. Yet, we’ve seen even higher levels of violence, Palestinians are identifying with terror groups to promote their interests more, and the Palestinian Authority’s abhorrent ‘pay-for-slay’ policy continues unabated. So why is the administration asking for an additional $259 million? Whose interests will be advanced by this money? Certainly not America’s, and certainly not our ally Israel.
“I am also compelled to point out the irony of requesting funds to empower women globally – certainly a laudable goal – but at the same time requesting flexibility to provide assistance to the Taliban. Did we learn nothing during the 20 years we spent in Afghanistan? The Taliban certainly don’t have the same values that we do.
“Finally, I would be remiss if I did not raise, once again, the need to make sure the U.S. follows the ‘Do No Harm’ principle in response to complex emergencies, such as South Sudan and Ethiopia. We all know these are tough. But we still await the conduct of assistance reviews and investigations into humanitarian aid diversions. We need strong oversight of assistance. These issues need our view.
“There are a lot of areas in which we can and should work together. For example, I’m eager to help ensure USAID has a workforce that is fit for purpose and fully capable of meeting today’s complex development challenges. This applies not only to the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, where needs are particularly acute, but also at overseas missions, particularly in Africa.
“This budget appears written to appease domestic progressive goals rather than meet crucial needs overseas. This imbalance makes it really difficult to support.
“It’s clear, we’ve got a very steep hill to climb when it comes to aligning priorities and resources. I hope we can get to a resolution on these.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.