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Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on USAID FY2025 Budget Request

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 FY2025 budget request for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Witnesses included The Honorable Samantha Power, administrator at USAID.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Administrator Power, for being here today.

“Let me just say before I launch into my in-depth criticisms, I fully appreciate the position you’re in. You have one of the toughest jobs in the administration. There is never enough money for anything we do, but this is really tough – particularly when you’re making choices that are life and death choices. We understand that. Believe me, the criticisms I have here are meant to move us forward as opposed to backwards – thank you for that. 

“In theory, we are here to discuss a budget request for Fiscal Year 2025. Unfortunately, Congress only passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2024 nineteen days ago, and we are still debating a supplemental budget request that was submitted eight months ago.

“Meanwhile, Putin’s war machine has been hammering Ukraine for more than two years. Hamas has been holding innocent civilians hostage and using humanitarians as human shields for more than six months. A brutal civil war has been raging in Sudan for 10 months, pushing 25 million people to the brink starvation. And these are just a few of the challenges USAID has been forced to confront. Obviously there are many others – the chairman made reference to a number of those.

“The pressures on the international affairs budget have become too great, and our process is broken. We are at a point really where it’s time to start making difficult choices – ones we have to make – and to prioritize. I really feel, unfortunately, that this budget does not do that.

“For example, for the third year in a row, the administration has requested billions of dollars in mandatory spending to out-compete China. While I agree it is imperative we find ways to compete with and counter China around the world, Congress has already rejected requests for mandatory funding – not once, but twice – because, by law, it requires offsets from other critical programs as we all know.

“It’s painfully obvious these funds are being pushed into a mandatory request so the administration can prioritize its favorite projects in climate and gender within the discretionary budget. These budget gimmicks are a dangerous game and need to stop if we’re all going to pull the wagon together.

“It’s time the administration take seriously the threat China poses to American values and interests, and align our discretionary budget priorities accordingly. Administrator Power, I’d like to hear, based on reality, how USAID will adapt its budget to address this threat after, I’m sure, Congress will reject the third mandatory funding request?

“The proposed budget also fails to include funding to meet the U.S. obligations of the Budapest agreement related to Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. It’s clear that this obligation cannot be met through supplemental appropriations requests; it needs to be part of a comprehensive strategy, and more importantly be included in the regular budgeting process.

“On the situation in Gaza, it is clear UNRWA is a morally bankrupt institution beyond the point of redemption, and this has been so for years. That is why Congress has prohibited funding for UNRWA in 2025 by law. It is essential USAID accelerate the scale-up of trusted implementers, without ties to terrorism, to replace UNRWA in the West Bank and Gaza. We can’t keep wasting time burying our heads in the sand hoping UNRWA will magically change. It won’t, it hasn’t. You’ve got to must move faster on getting hooked up with our trusted implementers in the region.

“Turning to Afghanistan – the Taliban have erased the rights of women and girls. It is imperative we keep educational opportunities open, including through distance-learning models, for vulnerable Afghan women and girls. I understand the American University of Afghanistan is prepared to scale up to meet the need, and would be interested in your thoughts on this matter.

“In Syria, both State and USAID continue to pour funds into early recovery and stabilization activities – including in regime-held areas – there are a lot of us who are greatly opposed to this. This is unacceptable and is opening doors for some of our Gulf partners to embrace the regime – again, which we oppose. We must ensure all U.S. activities are compliant with Caesar sanctions and continue to isolate the regime without harming the Syrian people. I look forward to Senate movement on the Assad Anti-Normalization Act at the first opportunity.

“Finally, in Africa, there are critical issues that require USAID's immediate collaboration and partnership with African nations and organizations. These include deteriorating democracies, more military coups and authoritarian rule, unprecedented humanitarian emergencies, and escalating insecurity that drives armed conflict, terrorism, and unparalleled levels of displacement. I think all of us are disappointed with the direction that the continent is going. Not only are these issues causing widespread suffering and instability, but importantly they harm our national interest. The president's budget needs to adequately resource USAID and other agencies to help address these critical issues.

“It is regrettable the budget request again lacks discipline. If the administration cannot prioritize, Congress will have to do it. You, USAID, are in a better position to prioritize but it requires very tough choices – we know that, I get it. Someone has to do it, and it really should be you and not us.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

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