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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Over the last several months, the world has watched an unraveling situation between Ukraine, Russia and the peninsula of Crimea. The struggle reached a boiling point last month when protestors overthrew the corrupt leadership of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was collaborating with Russian President Vladimir Putin and intending to force greater ties between the two countries—in direct opposition to the majority of Ukrainians who prefer closer ties to the European Union (EU).