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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As threats of terrorism continue to unfold around the globe, particularly through the spread of extremist groups in the Middle East, it is critical for America to show strength and focus in its dealings with friends and foes alike. Beyond condemning specific acts and sponsors of terror, our country must be guided by a clear strategy in our dealings abroad, including our approach to our relationships with both allied partners and those who wish us harm.
The Oklahoman - Chris Casteel
Rep. Tom Cole returned from the Middle East on Friday and said the Obama administration’s framework for a nuclear deal with Iran could set off an arms race in an already fragile region.
“It’s a region in turmoil, a very dangerous turmoil,” Cole, R-Moore, said in an interview. “The other countries aren’t going to sit there in the region and say, ‘Iran can develop (nuclear weapons), and we can’t.’”
With the March 31 deadline for initial negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 just days away, I am very concerned by the president’s failure to consult Congress and his lack of stated intention to do so. Concern over what the new framework could include for Iran’s nuclear program is not a partisan issue. In fact, members on both sides of the aisle have told the president to err on the side of caution and remember the history of our relationship with Iran.
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.