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, only about one percent of foreign aid is provided as direct budget support to foreign governments. In fact, most 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 lifting developing countries out of disease and poverty, promoting long-term development and building important relationships.
Additionally, through the appropriations process, Congress can help ensure that funding goes to countries to build stability and counter a variety of international threats, such as terrorism, illegal drugs, and infectious disease. Approximately 1.3 percent of the total federal budget 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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On April 4, 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed, and the United States entered the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as one of 12 founding member countries. Seven decades later, the transatlantic alliance endures, and it has grown to include 29 countries, pledging still to face aggressors and security threats together.
“Seventeen years ago I was in Washington D.C. the day of the 9/11 attack on America. While I was not a member of Congress, I was sitting in the offices of the US Chamber of Commerce looking directly at the White House across Lafayette Square. Gathered with my colleagues and others we turned on our television just in time to see the second plane crash into the twin towers. Minutes later we saw people pour out of the White House, fleeing out of fear that the home of America’s first family would be the next target.