From the ongoing civil war in Syria, to the acts of Russian aggression in the sovereign country of Ukraine and our campaign against ISIS/ISIL, the world has become an increasingly dangerous place for freedom and democracy. While much of the power to conduct foreign affairs is granted to the president by the U.S. Constitution, Congress can and should still shape foreign policy and play a vital role in ensuring the world remains a safe place and that our citizens are protected from harm.
For example, Congress maintains control over the “purse strings” and funds our national defense and foreign assistance. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have had the opportunity to see firsthand how foreign assistance is used to support American values all over the world. On average, about 2 percent of foreign aid is provided as direct budget support (cash) to foreign governments. The remainder of aid is given in the form of expert technical advice, training, equipment, vaccines, food, educational exchanges and applied research. Much of the work done by America and its citizens internationally is crucial to bringing developing countries out of poverty and promoting long-term development.
Additionally, through the appropriations process, Congress can help ensure that funding goes to countries to build stability and counter international threats. Approximately 1.3 percent of the total federal budget and 4.4 percent of discretionary budget authority is designated for foreign assistance from all federal sources. Aid that promotes global prosperity, democracy and rule of law, economic growth and humanitarian interests reflects American values and global leadership.
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Last week, Donald Trump wrapped up his first foreign trip as President of the United States. His travels took him to the centers of the world's three predominant monotheistic religions, at each of which the President mixed traditional diplomacy with his own unique approach to politics and public policy.
The world has rightfully taken notice of Russia’s role in the violence that is visibly escalating in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS. However, that unrest is not the only cause for international concern. More than two years after Russia forcibly annexed Crimea, it maintains a violent and aggressive presence in East Ukraine. With behavior that chillingly harkens back to the Cold War era, it is becoming increasingly clear that Russia won’t stop trying to forcibly broaden its territorial reach in an effort to reclaim its superpower status.
Since the Iran nuclear agreement was announced last year, the terrorist regime has made it abundantly clear that it has no intention of keeping its end of what was already a very weak agreement. Tellingly, Iran has demonstrated contempt for the United States and the Obama Administration by testing ballistic missiles suited for nuclear warheads and openly abusing human rights.
Clearly, the threat posed by ISIS/ISIL in the Middle East isn’t diminishing and the need to do something to protect the United States and our friends abroad is more urgent than ever. Considering the escalating conflict in the area occupied by the terrorist group, attacks against our allies and direct threats surfacing in America, it is past time for thoughtful debate to take place, a clear strategy to be agreed upon and decisive action to be taken to destroy this barbaric enemy.