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USAID Chief to Congress: Foreign Aid Key in Countering Chinese, Russian Influence


FILE - USAID Administrator Samantha Power speaks during an interview at USAID headquarters in Washington, Aug. 4, 2022.

A top Republican lawmaker said Wednesday the funding priorities for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) do not go far enough in addressing the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The Biden administration has requested $32 billion in foreign assistance for USAID — $3 billion more than the amount appropriated by Congress in 2023.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul said in a hearing with USAID administrator Samantha Power that it is not clear how the agency plans to spend the requested $400 million in the fund for countering Chinese influence.

Senator Michael McCaul speaks before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, May 17, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. During a hearing, he said the U.S. Agency for International Development doesn't go far enough in addressing the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
Senator Michael McCaul speaks before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, May 17, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. During a hearing, he said the U.S. Agency for International Development doesn't go far enough in addressing the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

"Our foreign aid must serve as a clear alternative to the CCP and our adversaries while also saving lives and projecting U.S. global leadership around the world," McCaul said.

Budget hearings with agency heads are an annual exercise on Capitol Hill, with funding requests serving as a starting point for negotiations.

"The People's Republic of China and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin are ready to step in — whether through opaque loans on unfavorable terms or with mercenaries in tow," Power told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "An international order that values democracy and human rights and respects international borders is not a given. Indeed, authoritarian actors are challenging and aiming to reshape it. We have to invest in the stable and more humane world that we need."

Power told lawmakers that House Republicans' budget legislation addressing the looming debt ceiling crisis would cause significant harm to USAID's worldwide mission and America's global influence. Last month, the Republican-majority House of Representatives passed legislation that has no chance of adoption in the Democratic-majority U.S. Senate. But their proposal, if passed, would increase the debt limit in return for cuts to government spending, including decreasing USAID funding by up to 22%.

"China and Russia aren't slashing their international affairs budget by nearly one-third. In fact, they are growing and expanding their foreign assistance programs as a means to advance their national interests and exert influence on the global stage. We're losing ground," Representative Gregory Meeks, the ranking member on the committee, said Wednesday.

On Sunday, McCaul told ABC News "This Week" that "defaulting is not the right path to go down. ... Our adversaries look at this very closely. They look at when we're divided. ... I think they would love nothing more, particularly China, to see us default in our full faith and credit under the Constitution."

He added that Republicans have laid out a plan to avoid it.

"I think we were reasonable," McCaul said. "We're willing to raise the debt ceiling, but we want meaningful spending cuts and capping spending … at 2022 levels."

Power said 2019 USAID funding had increased at half the rate that its programming had grown. According to public opinion polls, many Americans perceive the investment in foreign aid to be much higher than it actually is. Surveys consistently show that the public believes 25% of the U.S. budget is spent annually on foreign assistance when in fact, it is less than 1%.

"It absolutely goes without saying that nothing that I'm proposing here should come at the expense of the appropriate investments in our defense and in the competition that we are in with the PRC globally," Power told lawmakers.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.

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