In a two-hour Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson backed the Donald Trump’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which would cut foreign aid funding by an estimated 32%.
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During questioning by the bipartisan panel, Tillerson repeatedly called on America’s allies to take the mantle of leadership in the absence of robust foreign aid from the United States.
“America has been leading for a very long time and the American people have been reaching in their pockets and paying for this leadership for a very long time,” Tillerson said, “But you, our allies, need to do a realistic share.”
“We should not look to America to carry us on our backs every step of the way,” he added.
Both Democratic and Republican committee leadership called the Trump administration’s proposed cuts into question.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the committee, called the review process of the administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget a “fiscal calamity,” adding: “the budget that’s been presented is not going to be the budget that we’re going to deal with.”
“I’m deeply concerned your approach does not put America first, but puts America alone,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the ranking Democrat in the committee, said.
He called the proposed budget cuts to foreign assistance a “devastating assault on American values.”
Read More: The Little-Known History of US Foreign Aid
The budget has been called “dead on arrival” by a number of politicians on both sides of the aisle, including Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ). Graham cited security concerns if the US reduces its international programs. “If we implemented this budget, we’d have to retreat from the world and put a lot of people at risk,” Graham said.
Trump’s proposal would cut down the state department’s foreign affairs budget by about one-third and would increase military spending by 10%. The cuts would include drastic reductions to funding for global education initiatives, water and sanitation, and global health in 41 countries.
These cuts could have drastic on-the-ground ramifications in a country like Malawi, where the 2018 budget proposal would completely eliminate developmental assistance, including education funding that has helped the country increase reading skills for primary school students.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has been an outspoken proponent of maintaining foreign aid, said at the committee hearing that, “foreign aid has brought real successes,” and added that “people forget that it’s less than 1% of our budget.”
But Tillerson maintained that cuts will not have a devastating effect if spending can “maximize the effectiveness of these programs.”
“These are some of the hard choices that I mentioned,” he said.
Global Citizen is urging the Trump administration to stop the cuts. Foreign aid funding preserves US national security, and save millions of lives around the world. Take action now.