Sneaking foreign assistance cuts into the Hurricane Sandy bill

UPDATE: 12/29/12 5:58pm ET. The amendment to cut foreign assistance was defeated in the Senate 3-91. Thank you to everyone who made calls to their senators to ask them to protect these lifesaving programs.

Last week, while most Americans like you were busy traveling and enjoying the start to the holidays, a bad idea took shape in Congress. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced an amendment to the $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill that is making its way through the Senate. Sen. Paul’s amendment calls for a $9 billion cut in foreign assistance, meaning deep cuts to programs that fight AIDS, fund vaccines, and help provide nutrition to the world’s poorest. These cuts are deeper than the budget cuts that would occur if we go over the fiscal cliff!

The vote on this amendment, which is expected to occur today (Thursday), would put a huge dent in funding lifesaving program. The relief bill — a great measure to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy — is expected to easily pass in the Senate. And with any bill, the usual number wide-ranging amendments were tacked on before the vote — some pass and some don’t.

This amendment is one that should not pass (…and cue Gandalf).

For the past two months, ONE members and staff have been reaching out to members of Congress to protect the “150 account”, the foreign assistance portion of our country’s budget. This is where programs like PEPFAR and Feed the Future receive their funding. Preserving these programs saves lives and helps the poorest countries with the resources they need to pull themselves out of poverty. Cutting these programs from the budget won’t make a dent in the deficit.

It’s seems a bit sneaky when legislators tack on amendments to popular bills like Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Of course, a bill to help recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy should pass, but not with amendments that hurt the world’s poorest people. And, cutting foreign assistance does nothing to hurt or help Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. It’s just another attempt at cutting funding for programs that are part of our country’s legacy to the world.

So today, ONE is asking members to call their senators and tell them to oppose the amendment. Unfortunately, we have today to make sure they hear us. A holiday rush, indeed!

And over the next few months, while these budget battles continue, we’ll keep pushing our message to protect this portion of the U.S. budget. In the fight against extreme poverty, defending foreign assistance is crucial to reducing global poverty.