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Yesterday, we got a preview of a rare good-news story out of Congress: If the Senate has its way, America won’t abandon its commitments to the world’s most vulnerable and persecuted.
While President Obama recently received praise for reducing the rate of U.S. government spending, it’s Congress that must that must make the hard decisions about to how to prioritize funding trade-offs.
With that in mind, RI has been following legislation closely to see if the Senate would preserve humanitarian funding. And yesterday, we were pleased to see the Senate subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations pass a bill that is exceptionally strong in its support for refugees, the internally displaced, and stateless people.
The subcommittee’s chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), called attention to the considerable restraint shown by the subcommittee in reining-in budget growth while preserving vital programs. "This bill totals $52.1 billion, which is $2.6 billion below the President's budget request, and $1.2 billion below the Fiscal Year 2012 level,” Leahy said in a press release. He went on to note that the savings largely came from cutting funds for an ineffective and expensive Iraqi police training program.
Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), the Republican lead on the subcommittee, recognized that while the U.S. international affairs budget has been cut back from the previous year, that doesn’t mean the world has become safer or humanitarian crises less severe. Though that might sound like empty rhetoric, the bill’s contents show that it isn’t. Indeed, Senators Leahy and Graham carefully drafted a package that helps meet the needs of the displaced and preserves America’s leadership role in supporting humanitarian response worldwide.
The Senate subcommittee’s bill includes many elements that should please humanitarians, including:
RI also keeps a keen eye on the humanitarian response accounts – budget lines that enable the U.S. government to react to rapid on-set displacement crises. We also continually push Congress to combat the drivers of displacement like climate change, which can disrupt livelihoods in places that are already food insecure or prone to flooding. On both of these fronts, RI was pleased to see that the Senate will continue to invest in forward-looking programs, including:
Going forward, our advocacy in Congress and overseas will help make sure these funds support the most effective and efficient policies.
The full Senate appropriations bill and report will be available soon, but it appears that Senators Leahy and Graham have adopted the right priorities in these tight budgetary times. The rest of the Senate and House should follow their lead.
(For more information about RI’s advocacy around the federal budget, check out our Budget & Appropriations Page. As the official figures become available, the page will be updated to include new information of the House and Senate.)May 24, 2012 | Tagged as: Africa, Climate Displacement, Americas, Humanitarian Response, Asia, Middle East, Protection & Security, Statelessness, Women & Children