Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is blasting a House bill that would impose strict new requirements on U.S. aid to countries including Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan and Yemen, warning that she will urge a veto if the measure reaches President Obama’s desk.
The bill “would be debilitating to my efforts to carry out a considered foreign policy and diplomacy, and to use foreign assistance strategically to that end,” Clinton wrote Tuesday to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The bill, passed by the Republican-dominated committee last week, adopted a sweeping set of policy and funding directions for the State Department. While it is not expected to pass the Senate, the measure laid down a marker of Republicans’ foreign-policy priorities in the upcoming 2012 budget battle.
In the letter, obtained from a congressional aide by The Washington Post, Clinton criticized the legislation’s “onerous restrictions” on department operations and foreign aid, and the “severe curtailing” of dues owed to international organizations — including the bill’s provision to not pay U.S. dues for the Organization of American States, the hemisphere’s main inter-governmental organization.
Clinton wrote that the bill’s ban on aid to countries that don’t meet certain anti-corruption standards “has the potential to affect a staggering number of needy aid recipients.” She also protested the “crippling restrictions on security assistance” to Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and the Palestinian Authority.
The bill had blocked aid to those four governments unless Clinton certified that no members of terrorist organizations, or their sympathizers, were serving in their administrations. That language was aimed at Islamist groups such as the Palestinian organization Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah — which have large followings but are on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations — and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is expected to do well in Egypt’s upcoming elections. It is not considered a terrorist group.
Brad Goehner, a spokesman for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee chairwoman, said in reaction to the letter: "It's disappointing, particularly given the current debt crisis, that the Obama administration is fighting to keep sending taxpayer money to foreign organizations and governments that undermine U.S. interests."