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June 27, 2007

GOP Used Fiscal Arguments to defend Aid Cuts to Israel; Vote Was About More Than Mexico City Policy

Listed in: Israel, Other Foreign Policy, Fact Sheets, GOP Hypocrisies, NJDC News, Press Releases




NJDC Releases Fact Sheet with Quotes from Congressional Record


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Late last week, the House Republican Leadership took the dramatic step of instructing their Members to vote against the annual foreign aid bill, which provides $2.4 billion to Israel and has long been a top legislative priority of the pro-Israel community. Today, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) released a fact sheet providing evidence that the GOP used traditional isolationist arguments in opposition to the bill. NJDC is responding to a popular misconception that the Republican opposition was due solely to the inclusion of a provision in the legislation related to the so-called "Mexico City Policy."

Several Republicans took the House floor on July 21 to argue that the foreign aid bill was not worth the expense, and that funds would be better spent in the U.S. on tax cuts or other domestic priorities. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), for instance, declared that his constituents "are asking, why are we increasing to such a dramatic extent for all this money on foreign aid when we have problems right here at home?" The pro-Israel community has long objected to such isolationist views of foreign aid in general, be it aid for Israel or other countries that receive foreign aid. [Congressional Record, 6/21/07, Page H6932]

In addition, 161 House Republicans - at the urging of Minority Leader Boehner - voted for the Price Amendment, an across-the-board 1% cut in foreign aid that would have resulted in the loss of $24 million in funding for Israel. [Roll Call 538, 6/22/07]

"The fact that Republican Leadership chose to whip their caucus in opposition to the foreign aid bill and in favor of an across-the-board cut that would include Israel is deeply disturbing," said NJDC Executive Director Ira N. Forman. "It's not just that the vast majority of the Members of one party voted against foreign aid, but that the opposition to foreign aid was a party issue. Make no mistake, the use of traditional isolationist rhetoric and reasoning to oppose foreign aid funding is bad for the United States and bad for Israel."

"One Republican leader even implied that this cannot be perceived as an anti-Israel vote, because the GOP is pro-Israel. That's like making the argument, ‘who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" continued Forman.

The amendment dealing with the Mexico City Policy would "provide contraceptives to overseas organizations that had been banned from receiving foreign aid because they provided or promoted abortion," according to a report in the Washington Post. [Washington Post, 6/22/07]

The NJDC fact sheet follows.



House Republicans tried to slash the foreign aid appropriation bill even though it was already $700 million less than requested by the President. [Rep. Nita Lowey, Congressional Record, 6/21/07, Page H6931]

During debate over the foreign aid bill, the Republican Leadership sent a letter to Members' offices, using fiscal arguments to oppose the bill. From the letter: "Please advise your boss that Leadership will be voting NO on final passage of the Democrats' State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, and strongly encourage Republican Members to do the same. The bill spends a total of $34.243 billion, increasing levels for State and Foreign Operations by 9.5% or $2.966 billion over last year."

The Price Amendment slashed foreign aid by 1%, including a $24 million cut in aid to Israel. In introducing his amendment, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), declared that his amendment (originally proposed by former Congressman Hefley) was designed as "an effort to try to bring about some fiscal responsibility." Said Price: ".... This is a small step, a symbolic step but is an important step, to let the American people know that, yes, we do believe that we respect the hard work that they do, and we also believe that it is important for Washington to get its fiscal house in order." [H.AMDT.383, Congressional Record, 6/21/07, Page H6931]

161 Republicans voted for the Price Amendment to slash foreign aid, including Minority Leader Boehner and Minority Whip Blunt. [Roll Call 538, 6/22/07]

- Minority Leader Boehner on the Price Amendment: "I think my colleague has a very good amendment here. I urge my colleagues to support the gentleman's amendment." [Congressional Record, 6/21/07, Page H6934]

When the Price amendment was debated, numerous Republicans took to the floor to speak in favor of cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid funds:

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) said that foreign aid funds should be redirected "here at home": "... when I go back to my districts and talk to my constituents, their interest is in their families here at home, in Sussex County, Bergen County, Passaic County and Warren County in the good State of New Jersey.
They are asking, why are we increasing to such a dramatic extent for all this money on foreign aid when we have problems right here at home?
Mr. Chairman, how many times have you heard from the other side of the aisle when they rail against spending for our brave men and women overseas on our military aid, when they say we should be spending those dollars here at home? We concur when it comes to foreign aid, we should direct those funds here at home. [Congressional Record, 6/21/07, Page H6932] [emphasis added]

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said that foreign aid funds would be better spent in America: "We are dealing with Foreign operations here. Maybe we ought to be thinking about family budget operations ... Let's protect the family budget from the Federal budget and support this amendment [the Price amendment]." [Congressional Record, 6/21/07, Page H6932]

Rep. David Davis (R-TN) said an increase in spending on foreign aid is less preferable than domestic tax cuts or other issues: "Quite frankly, coming from Tennessee, holding the line on spending is not irresponsible .... Actually, what we are looking at in this appropriation bill is a 9.5 percent increase in spending. When the rate of inflation is less than 3 percent, this is a growth in spending of almost three to four times the rate of inflation.

"We have men and women all around America right now sitting at their kitchen tables trying to decide how they are going to balance their budgets. Why in the world are we in Congress trying to grow our budgets almost 10 percent when we have people across America that are trying to just balance their budget? Gas prices are high. They are worried about increases in taxes. The least we can do, the very least we can do, is just hold the line on spending." [Congressional Record, 6/21/07, Page H6930]