Congress has officially wrapped up the FY2017 appropriations process—a mere seven months behind schedule. Much has changed since last fall, including the rhetoric on US foreign aid spending from the sitting administration. And big questions have been swirling about whether the bipartisan consensus in Congress on the importance of effective foreign assistance will hold in this new environment. At least in very short term, the answer appears to be yes.
CGD Policy Blogs
While we don’t often blog congressional hearings, yesterday’s discussion of “The Budget, Diplomacy, and Development” in the House Foreign Affairs Committee struck us as especially important given the uncertainty facing the foreign assistance budget: the level of consensus in acknowledging that deep cuts to the international affairs budget would be unwise and undermine US interests felt remarkable.
The Trump Administration’s skinny budget is a bit of a public relations exercise in trying to have it both ways on the 150 Account, as observed by our colleague Scott Morris. We’re going to cut dramatically to “prioritize” Americans, but wait, it’s really just a minor reform and rightsizing to get rid of some duplications!
President Trump and many congressional Republicans have made no secret of their strong interest in dismantling “Dodd-Frank,” a law signed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to strengthen regulation of the financial industry in the United States. But it’s a small, seemingly peripheral, transparency provision focused on developing countries that’s poised to be one of the law’s earliest casualties. Congress quietly voted last week to torpedo implementation of a rule that would require U.S. firms to disclose payments made to foreign governments for the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted yesterday to give the greenlight to Rex Tillerson’s nomination for Secretary of State. Assuming he is confirmed by the full Senate—which at this point is all but certain—Tillerson will play a critical role in shaping US foreign policy from the helm of the State Department with important implications for global development. While, like other nominees, some of Tillerson’s stated positions appear out of sync with those espoused by President Trump, it’s worth examining where Tillerson is on the record when it comes to issues of development and humanitarian relief.
Congress has officially departed Washington for the summer, leaving behind a lengthy to-do list for September. In the final weeks of session, both chambers clamored to advance spending bills for the 2017 fiscal year. Though draft bills funding the State Department and foreign assistance were among the last to emerge, both House and Senate Appropriations Committees managed to report out measures before the clock struck recess. So without further ado, here’s a quick rundown of what caught our attention as we sifted through pages of bill text and report language.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently took an interest in one key form of foreign aid—US economic assistance—convening a hearing to investigate the topic. We had high hopes going in and were pleased to hear all three of the hearing’s witnesses—Jeffrey Herbst, Alicia Phillips Mandaville, and CGD’s Todd Moss—champion the use of rigorous analysis, evaluation, and selectivity in aid to promote economic opportunity in developing countries.
With election-year events crowding out the legislative calendar, there’s only so many more opportunities for the Senate to show its commitment to development and its interest in improving US development policy. Legislators still have a week and a half in town, and we were encouraged to see the Senate Foreign Relations Committee fit in an important hearing on the role of US foreign aid in spurring economic growth.
For some time, we’ve been cheering MCC’s interest in pursuing approaches that pay for outcomes and encouraging the agency’s stakeholders to get onboard (here and here). Now we can applaud an important step forward. The agency’s new compact with Morocco, which both partners celebrated at an event last Thursday in Rabat, spells out the potential for a results-based financing component—a welcome development.
In an election year, it can start to seem like every policy issue qualifies as contentious. Perhaps that’s why the constructive, bipartisan discussion featured in last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on the West Africa Ebola epidemic was so refreshing.