Letter

Letter to U.S. Senate on Poverty-Focused Assistance, August 24, 2011

Topic
Year Published
  • 2011
Language
  • English

August 24, 2011

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye
Chairman, Appropriations Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Ranking Member, Appropriations Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman and Ranking Member:

As you take up FY 2012 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations, we urge you to avoid morally unacceptable, even deadly cuts to poverty-focused humanitarian and development assistance. The House Subcommittee mark makes cuts that will undermine integral human development, poverty reduction initiatives, and stability in the world’s poorest countries and communities. They could also weaken our long-term security, since poverty and hopelessness can lead to instability, conflict and terrorism.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services have repeatedly acknowledged the difficult challenges that Congress faces to get the nation’s financial house in order: fulfilling the demands of justice and obligations to future generations; controlling future debt and deficits; and protecting the life and dignity of those who are poor and vulnerable. However, our nation must be fiscally responsible in morally responsible ways.

The House Subcommittee bill cuts dramatically the critical poverty-focused development and humanitarian accounts previously identified by USCCB and CRS (see the attached table). Some of the most egregious cuts are to agricultural assistance for subsistence farmers, adaptation to climate change for vulnerable communities, medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS and vaccines for preventable diseases, assistance to orphans and vulnerable children, disaster assistance in places like Haiti, peacekeeping to protect innocent civilians in troubled areas such as Sudan and the Congo, and support to migrants and refugees fleeing conflict or persecution in nations such as Iraq. The famine in East Africa is a grim reminder of the lives that are at stake.

Instead of these disproportionate cuts, we urge you to consider balanced adjustments across the entire federal budget, including defense, revenue, agricultural subsidies, and fair and just entitlement reform. If the State and Foreign Operations budget must be cut, then protect critical poverty-focused development and humanitarian accounts and other parts of the budget focused on the poor. The budget is a moral document that should give priority to those who are poor and vulnerable at home and abroad. The House bill reduces foreign operations appropriations by 2%, but poverty-focused international assistance by over 13% in addition to last year’s cut of over 8%. This is not a balanced, moral approach to budget reductions.

We do strongly support the House bill’s language restoring the Mexico City Policy against funding groups that perform or promote abortion, its denial of funds to the U.N. Population Fund (which supports a program of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China), and its preservation of the Helms Amendment (which prohibits U.S. funding for abortion) and Kemp-Kasten provision (which prohibits support for organizations involved in programs of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization).

Unfortunately, we are also deeply disturbed by other provisions in the House legislation. The co-mingling of funding under the rubric of the Global Health Initiative may compromise conscience protections and non-discrimination measures, potentially reducing the participation of faith-based providers. CRS has already experienced trends that create complications for faith-based partnerships. This has the effect of reducing access to services because, for example, the Church and other faith-based organizations provide 30% to 70% of health care in many African countries, especially in remote areas. The co-mingling of funds may also reduce the focus, effectiveness, and funding of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

The House bill undermines our nation’s ability to engage in international efforts to address global climate change. Poor communities contribute little to the human causes of climate change, but suffer its worst consequences. Prudence and the common good demand that the U.S. capacity to lead and respond to the impact of climate change on the poorest places be restored.

The House bill also could damage U.S. efforts to seek a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land, by undermining assistance to Palestinians that is essential for humanitarian purposes and for building the capacity of a future Palestinian state. This is not in the interests of either Israelis or Palestinians who long for a two-state solution: a secure and recognized Israel alongside an independent and viable Palestinian state.

As we have said in the past, the USCCB and CRS stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity. But we oppose an appropriations bill that places a disproportionate, deadly burden on the poorest people in the poorest places on earth. We urge the Senate Appropriations Committee to reject the disproportionate, unwise, and unjust cuts being considered in the House.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop of Albany
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace

Mr. Ken Hackett
President
Catholic Relief Services

cc: Senate Appropriations Committee

Encl.

poverty-focused-assistance-letter-to-senate-2011-08-24.pdf