House proposes massive cuts to US aid, diplomacy

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans proposed slashing billions of dollars in U.S. diplomacy and overseas aid programs Thursday in legislation that will face fierce opposition from the Obama administration and the Democratic-led Senate.

The House Appropriations Committee’s 2014 foreign operations bill would give full funding to embassy security, with the goal of preventing a repeat of last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya. It also maintains security money for allies Israel and Jordan.

But it would cut heavily in other areas, taking spending down to $34.1 billion. That’s $8 billion or about 20 percent lower than last year. Along with proposed cuts to the Internal Revenue Service, the measure includes some of the most severe elements of the GOP’s cost-cutting effort.

“Given all of the country’s needs and fiscal realities, we must prioritize our very limited funds on only the most important international activities,” Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said. His bill, he said, decreases funding for “lower-priority programs or those that we simply cannot afford at this time.”

These include all of the State Department’s money to combat climate change and promote clean technology, as well as funding for several U.N. and international organizations.

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s budget would drop around 11 percent to $1.4 billion, while the State Department’s funding level for foreign government assistance would fall by a quarter to $17.3 billion.

Tough conditions would be attached on aid to Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan and the Palestinians.

And Republicans are seeking again to block U.S. funds to any U.N. body or international family-planning group that may be involved in abortion, a change that the Senate has knocked down several times since Obama overturned the policy of President George W. Bush.

Much in the bill is unlikely to ever become law. Since leaving the Senate for his State Department post, Secretary of State John Kerry has repeatedly made the case that foreign assistance programs represent less than 1 percent of the federal budget, far less than the impression given by some lawmakers. The White House, too, opposes extreme cuts to foreign operations.

Like other agencies, the State Department has suffered from the across-the-board automatic spending reductions that went into effect earlier this year. The so-called “sequestration” forced the United States to cut $2.6 billion in global humanitarian aid, security funds and other international programs in some of the world’s most unstable regions.

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