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 one 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 lifting 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 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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Certainly the most valuable friends in life are those who are unafraid to speak the honest, unapologetic truth when it desperately needs to be heard. Through his powerful speech before Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proved that he, and his country, remains exactly that kind of honest and true friend to the United States.
In the global war on terror, the United States has no better ally and friend than the State of Israel. Surrounded by enemies intent on destroying them, Israel has more at stake in this war than any other nation in the world. Moreover, our two nations share a commitment to living peaceably, fighting terrorism, defending freedom and protecting democracy. As terrorist activities in the Middle East become more barbaric, we must continue to value, nurture and respect our relationship with Israel, still our most reliable ally in the region.
Recently, I had the opportunity to hear two competing portrayals of the global situation, along with visions of the role that America should play in it. In a world that becomes more closely-linked by the day through air travel, digital communication and trade, the steps and direction that our nation takes today with its foreign policy must be decisive, determined and constantly monitored.
Certainly, we always celebrate the safe return of one of our own. Especially before the holidays, we understand the relief felt by the family, friends and loved ones of Alan Gross, the U.S. citizen who was held captive in Cuba for five years after entering the country as a contractor. On the same day as the release of Gross last week, the Obama Administration announced a plan to “normalize relations” with the corrupt Castro regime responsible for the imprisonment. The steps ahead include efforts to re-establish diplomatic relations and open commerce by lifting sanctions.
Wall Street Journal - Byron Tau
President Barack Obama invoked the responsibility of the U.S. to lead on the world stage as he renewed his call for Congress to pass a $6.2 billion emergency aid package aimed at combating the Ebola outbreak.
Speaking at an event at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., Mr. Obama said American leadership at home and abroad was needed to tackle the deadly disease worldwide. “We need to protect the American people, and we need to show the world how America leads,” the president said.
Since 1984, Iran has been designated by the U.S. Department of State as a sponsor of terrorism around the world. Without question, this designation has set a precedent in our relationship with Iran, causing distrust and caution in our dealings with the country. In fact, last year was the first time since 1979 that direct communication between the U.S. and Iranian heads of government even took place, when President Barack Obama reached out to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with a phone call.
Over the last several months, we have all kept a close watch over the alarming outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Primarily impacting the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, our concern is certainly shared with those who have lost loved ones to this disease. As Americans, our first inclination in the midst of suffering is to lend a helping hand and prevent a situation from growing from bad to worse.