US Congress set to cut overseas food aid
Washington (AFP) April 13, 2011
US lawmakers were on track Wednesday to approve a spending-cut plan this week that will slash environmental protection and overseas food aid, reduce diplomatic programs, and boost military outlays.
The controversial compromise bill -- agreed shortly before midnight on Friday (0400 GMT Saturday) -- funds the US government to October 1 and was due to clear the House of Representatives on Thursday and the Senate shortly thereafter.
US military aid to Israel and Egypt escaped the knife, and the Pentagon will see a $5 billion increase from last year, but the Environmental Protection Agency will be cut $1.6 billion, according to an official summary released by the House Appropriations Committee.
Where President Barack Obama had sought $235 million for international efforts to battle global warming, lawmakers agreed just $50 million, a drop of about $49 million, according to the summary.
And the bill forbids the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from creating a specialized office sought by Obama to track the pace and effects of climate change.
Overseas food aid programs were in for a $194 million cut from last year's levels that amounts to a nearly $300 million reduction from Obama's request for the 2011 fiscal year that began October 1, 2010.
US contributions to the United Nations and other international organizations will see a $377 million cut, while the Millennium Challenge Corporation that forges partnerships with poor countries to foster growth will have to make do with $205 million less.
Lawmakers were still thrashing out the details of the plan: A $1 billion cut to overseas aid to fight HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, and tuberculosis, noted on an official summary of the plan early Tuesday, had vanished by Wednesday.
An Appropriations Committee spokeswoman, Jennifer Hing, said there would be "no cut" to the program, which would get "the same as last year."
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) faced a nearly $730-million-dollar cut.
Republicans trumpeted that the compromise included a prohibition on the transfer of prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay facility for suspected terrorists to US soil and curbs on their release to other countries.
Democrats crowed that they had held off a Republican effort to cut all funding for the UN Population Fund and that the compromise did not include the so-called "gag rule" that prohibits US monies from going to non-governmental organizations that provide or promote abortion services.
Overall, the US State Department and foreign operations faced a $504 reduction from last year -- some $8.4 billion less than Obama's request.
In a first, an attachment to the spending measure would remove a species of wolf from the endangered species list and let state wildlife agencies manage their populations.
Obama's push for a high-speed railroad network in the United States suffered a double blow: All funding for it through October 1 vanished, and some $400 million in unspent money earmarked for the program this year was taken back.
The bill forbids the use of local tax money being used to provide abortions in the US capital, but Democrats beat back a Republican drive to deny funds from the Planned Parenthood network of health clinics because they provide abortions.
Under US law, no taxpayer funds may pay for abortions, but Republicans have charged that money from Washington means Planned Parenthood can use other sources of cash to do so.
Instead, the Republican-run House and Democratic-held Senate will vote on a stand-alone measure to do so, with a split decision meaning it will be defeated.
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