Inflammation and stories on congress

Calling CongressThe First Amendment gives Americans a handful of freedoms, one of the most important being the freedom of speech. But, with freedom of speech comes a more nuanced and focused right- the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In simpler terms, this grants Americans the right to make a complaint to or seek help from their government without fear of repercussion. People often wonder whether calling Congress makes a difference. It has been shown that there is a difference between emailing and calling your representative. It is helpful to understand why it is so important to call Congress.

Why It Is So Important To Call Congress

For starters, calls speak much louder than emails do. It is much more personable to place a phone call as the person must take the time and effort in their busy day to do so. Furthermore, one is more likely to get a response that is not automated, so the call will not get lost in the masses as an email could.

When constituents call their Senators and urge them to co-sponsor a bill or vote in favor of a specific proposal, that request gets tallied. When there are enough tallies to get the attention of the Senator, it is not uncommon for them to vote in the way their constituents had pleaded. If the call is in favor of a more intense partisan issue, there may be a lower success rate for the constituents, but still, their voice is heard and their request is noted.

If enough people call about a similar issue, that has the power to halt the office and bring that issue to the top of an agenda. Demands in such high volumes are impossible to ignore and force a Senator to address them. The power to change the agenda in a congressional office is among the many reasons why it is so important to call Congress.

The Problem with Calling Congress

There is, of course, one major flaw in this system. While there is no cap on the number of emails that can be received at any given time, the same can not be said about phone calls. Even if a congressional staff fielded calls for an entire business day with no breaks and with all-hands-on-deck, they could still only take around 4,000 calls. Because there are so many more constituents than available phone lines, many people can get sent to voicemail. These voicemails are, however, listened to, and if a request for a vote is made over the line, the extra effort and desire to be heard is noted by the staffers and their plea still goes towards the tallies.

With so much on the plates of the leaders in Washington, it can become challenging to remain personable and in touch with the individual needs and desires of constituents. When people call their leaders, it bridges the them-and-us gap. It allows for congressmen and women to connect with their constituents and hear their stories; in turn, it allows them to better advocate for and represent these people and empathize with their concerns. Sharing a personal story and emotionally moving the staffer can have a huge impact, even if it is just one person.

Placing a phone call is somewhat of a lost art, but it still holds so much power. It is a form of communication that simply cannot be ignored, and thus, is far more likely to hold ground and achieve the desired result. While, yes, it is easy to send an email, it takes bravery and effort to place a phone call and explain to the people representing you how it is you would like to be represented. This is the power of a phone call, and it explains why it is so important to call Congress.

Charlotte M. Kriftcher

Photo: Flickr

John Mccain
On August 25 2018, Senator John McCain passed away at the age of 81 from a year-long battle with brain cancer. He had served in The U.S. Senate for over 30 years. During his tenure as an Arizonan Senator, he earned the title of a Maverick because of his service in the navy and his willingness to act independently from The Republican party. One of the most famous instances of this was his choice to vote against the repeal of The Affordable Care Act.

John McCain’s Legacy with Foreign Aid

He left behind him a complex voting and ideological history that included John McCain’s legacy with foreign aid. While he was a strong believer in defense spending and military intervention, he was a strong supporter of foreign aid spending as well. To McCain, one of the best ways to ensure America’s safety was to invest in other countries.

One of the best examples of John McCain’s legacy with foreign aid was in 2017. President Donald Trump’s budget plan for 2018 included cuts to foreign affairs spending, which includes foreign aid. The cuts totaled roughly $18 billion. One of the countries that would have suffered the most was the small North African country of Tunisia. In 2016 the country had received $177 million dollars; in the new budget, they would receive only $54 million dollars.

Sen. McCain spoke against the proposed cuts, wrote several opinion pieces and released a joint memo with Sen. Tim Kaine. In a forum, Sen. McCain promised that funding towards Tunisia would be restored. Funding to Tunisia is important because several Tunisians had been recruited into ISIS and many would return as ISIS lost territory in Syria and Iran. Sen. McCain asked, “haven’t we learned our lesson?” He also cited that Tunisia was important in the fight against ISIS and that cutting foreign aid to Tunisia was both “misguided and dangerous.”

A Memo to Congress

On June 15, 2017, Sen. McCain and Sen. Kaine released a joint memo urging Congress not to cut foreign aid. At the beginning of the article, McCain and Kaine used a famous quote from James Mattis, who now serves as the Defense Secretary under President Trump, “if you don’t fully fund The State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

The memo cited that helping developing countries is one of the best routes to achieving a safer world. It states, “[s]uch cuts will make it harder to make America safer”. It also discussed how improving economies in developing countries can help improve the United States economy because it creates more of a demand for American goods and services.

The memo backs this claim by examining how aid in Africa paid off. “By improving their plight, we improved opportunities for our exports and investments.” A majority of the world’s fastest growing economies are now in Africa. It also addressed some of the misconceptions surrounding foreign aid, including that, in reality, The United States only spends roughly 1 percent of the budget on foreign assistance.

Following Sen. McCain and several other Congressional leaders’ dissent, the Trump Administration did not cut the foreign aid budget nearly as much as it intended to. The foreign affairs budget was only cut by roughly $4 billion instead of the proposed $18 billion.

Sen. McCain’s defense of foreign aid helped stop the President from severely cutting spending. While he was once considered a Warhawk, he understood the importance of foreign aid as another tool of defense for The United States. John McCain’s legacy with foreign aid will remain as an example long after his passing.

– Drew Garbe

Photo: Flickr

US Congress
In mid-August 2018, the Trump administration announced that it was considering freezing more than $3 billion in unspent foreign assistance funding allocated to The State Department and The U.S. Agency for International Development. The proposal, put forth by The Office of Budget and Management, would place a freeze on all unspent foreign aid funding for 45 days. During that time, the U.S. Congress would have to either approve the proposed cuts or reject them and mandate the administration to allocate the funds as specified by the Congressional budget. 

Budget Cuts Proposal Did Not Follow Procedure

The funding freeze would have taken effect less than 45 days before the end of the fiscal year; therefore, it would not have provided Congress with the required legal timeframe set to address the proposed rescissions before the close of the fiscal year to the return of the frozen funds to the U.S. Treasury. The precedent for the Trump administration’s move is spelled out in The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, which allows unspent funds to be frozen for 45 days by the administration. However, the legality of this current move by the President has been questioned given the disregard for the required review time by Congress.

A letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), warned against thwarting the will of Congress by submitting recessions without giving lawmakers the required time to act. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) also questioned the proposed plan saying, “It would be a step of bad faith […] I don’t how they can do that legally.”

The concerns expressed by Senators Leahy and Corker reflect a continuing Congressional resistance to Presidential attacks on U.S. foreign assistance funding. This attempt to roll back foreign aid spending is not the first time that the current administration has made clear its lack of interest in bolstering international development. The President’s 2018 and 2019 budget proposals recommended a 28 percent cut in funding for The State Department and USAID. In addition, the budgets have implied a need to consolidate USAID and The State Department into one group, therefore, reducing the size and autonomy of the U.S. government’s foreign aid program.

Bi-Partisan Support of Foreign Aid Remains Strong

Despite the intentions of the executive branch, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have remained in support of foreign aid programs and have largely disregarded budget recommendations from The White House and maintained established levels of foreign aid funding. Many members of The U.S. Congress have spoken out in favor of the benefits that foreign aid brings to The U.S., citing programs like The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has played a major role in reducing the global AIDS death toll by half since 2005, and The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which has saved an estimated 7 million lives since 2000, as essential governmental initiatives.

Recognizing the bipartisan resistance in The U.S. Congress and from State Department head Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration announced in late-August that it would be dropping the proposal. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy praised this move commenting,Rescinding funds that had been agreed to by Congress and signed into law by the President, in the waning days of the fiscal year, would have set a terrible precedent and harmed programs that further United States interests around the world.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also received acknowledgment for his defense of the funding for his department, which would have been reduced by almost ten percent had the administration’s proposal been enacted.

Though, in this case, the fund allocated by The U.S. Congress for foreign assistance programs was left in place, the Trump administration has set a precedent throughout its term of hostility towards that aspect of the bureaucracy.  In this sense, there is much at stake for the future of U.S. foreign assistance. However, what has been demonstrated thus far is that lawmakers in The U.S. Congress remain in support of foreign assistance/ development and will take action to uphold its place within the U.S. government.

– Clarke Hallum

Photo: Flickr

Progress in U.S. Foreign PolicyRecent months have seen several instances of progress in U.S. foreign policy, specifically in terms of foreign aid initiatives. In the span of little over a month, from mid-June to late-July, four such initiatives have come one step closer to making it through Congress. These initiatives are described in the text below.

Global Food Security Reauthorization Act

On June 19, 2018, the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018 passed in the Senate, and is currently under consideration by the House of Representatives. If passed, the bill will renew the Global Food Security Act of 2016, allowing for continued U.S. assistance in efforts to eradicate chronic hunger and poverty in developing nations.

In 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) cited the number of people suffering from chronic hunger at 815 million, which is 10 million more than when the initial legislation was drafted. Of this number, 489 million people were living in areas experiencing conflict.

U.S. foreign assistance seeks to install agricultural development programs in target countries that will use innovative science and technology to make the most of agricultural resources. In fostering food security and economic growth, increased productivity in agriculture will alleviate both hunger and poverty, in addition to stabilizing populations that are especially vulnerable to conflict and environmental hardship. The stabilization of these countries ultimately bolsters U.S. national security.

Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act

The House of Representatives passed the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018 on July 17, 2018. It is now under review by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Globally, discrimination impedes women’s financial success in a number of ways:

  • Lower wages mean smaller incomes.
  • Laws and practices in some countries keep women from their rightful ownership of assets, as in the case of inheritance.
  • Gender-specific constraints have left over 1 billion women worldwide out of the formal financial system, depriving them of opportunities such as access to credit.

These factors all contribute to the reality that women comprise the majority of the world’s poor, rendering them more susceptible to violence, exploitation and poor health.

If this bill is implemented, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will work with countries to develop standards for gender equality and reduce gender violence. The agency will also support programs that establish and ensure equal rights to ownership and equal economic inclusion.

In 2016, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that women’s equal participation in economic activity would add $28 trillion to the global GDP by 2025.

Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act

July 17, 2018, saw another instance of progress in U.S. foreign policy with the House of Representatives also passing the BUILD Act. The bill has gotten through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is under further consideration by the Senate.

The BUILD Act would combine the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) with certain functions of USAID, creating the United States International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC) to replace OPIC.

Through loans, investments and partnerships with American businesses, the USIDFC would encourage and facilitate the investment of American private sector resources in developing nations. In financing business endeavors in these countries, the bill serves to create jobs, thereby stimulating their economies. This economic stimulation would make developing countries capable to afford infrastructure development projects.

The ultimate aim of the BUILD Act is to reduce the need for U.S. foreign aid by catalyzing modern development and bringing relations closer to an equal partnership. Congress expects that the USIDFC will go beyond self-sufficiency to bring in revenue to the U.S. Treasury.

Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act

The Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act made it through the House of Representatives on Oct. 3, 2017.  On July 26, 2018, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee finally passed the bill along to the Senate for consideration.

As of June 2018, disaster and conflict have displaced upward of 68 million people, out of whom 25 million are refugees. Over half of the refugee population are children, and almost four million of these children lack access to primary education. The average length of displacement is 26 years, meaning that the affected children are at risk of never receiving an education. And yet, as of 2016, under 2 percent of all foreign aid has gone toward ensuring education for children in need.

If enacted into law, the bill will mandate the U.S. to work with other countries in making education accessible to all displaced children. By educating children, countries combat poverty, exploitation and extremism, which thrives in areas of hardship. As its name suggests, the legislation would give special priority to girls, who are both economically disadvantaged and more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, human trafficking and child marriage.

Benefits of US Foreign Policy

Although these initiatives are designed to directly impact nations in need, each of them would also have an indirect positive impact in the U.S. and around the world.

Whether helping to stimulate the global economy, improving overall global health or ensuring that human rights that are upheld around the world, global interdependence means that progress in U.S. foreign policy could lead to progress around the globe.

The recent steps that Congress has taken to approve the foreign aid legislation cited above have brought hopes for this goal of becoming reality.

One simple way to find out more about these and similar issues is the direct contact with the Congress, which is easily possible through The Borgen Project, more specifically, through this link.

– Ashley Wagner
Photo: Flickr

Requirements for Senate?
In anticipation for the upcoming midterm elections on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, 35 out of 100 seats will be sought by both incumbents and candidates running for the U.S. Senate. While elected positions, such as Congressional representatives in the House, are appointed positions, like that of Supreme Court justices, the requirements for Senators are more extensive. If so, then what are the requirements for Senate?

Election Requirements

According to Article I, section three, clause three of the U.S. Constitution, Senators must be at least 30 years old, surpassing the House’s age requirement of at least 25 years. Also, Senators must be naturalized U.S. citizens for a minimum of nine years and must be residents of the state for which they are elected (as written in Article Five, section three of the U.S. Constitution).

In contrast, the House only requires their representatives to have been naturalized for a minimum of seven years. So how and where did these requirements for Senate and House originate?

These criteria were established in the U.S. Constitution. According to the History, Art, and Archives of the House of Representatives, the criteria regarding a Senator’s state residency were founded in response to prior British laws, where “Under English Law, no person ‘born out of the kingdoms of England, Scotland, or Ireland’ could be a member of either house or Parliament.”

The minimum age requirement for Senators was deemed necessary in “The Federalist, No.62,” where Madison wrote that “senatorial trust” required a “greater extent of information and stability of character,” than that of representatives in the House. As Senators are seemingly granted more confidence than House Representatives, this raises the question — what are the requirements for Senate reelections?       

How Senate Reelection Works

From 1990 to 2012, incumbent Senators won reelection on an average of 87.6 percent, according to the Washington Post. From the year 2013, both incumbent and non-incumbent Senate winners spent an average of $8,650,000.

In this 2018 election, “10 Democratic incumbents are running for re-election in states won by President Trump, including deep red ones like North Dakota and West Virginia.”

Why these Requirements Matter in the 2018 Midterm Elections

The Trump administration is nearing its halfway mark, signaling an opportunity for Democrats to take control of the Senate in 2018, upsetting the current Republican majority in Congress.

However, FiveThirtyEight explained that this feat would be quite difficult. In order for Democrats to gain the Senate majority, the Democrats “must flip two of those nine [seats held by Republicans] — without losing any seats of their own.”

Senate Powers in Addressing Global Poverty

First, it is important to distinguish between the roles of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Although the majority party in the House is primarily responsible for scheduling, this is not the case in Senate. In Senate, scheduling is “generally mutually agreed by majority and minority leaders.”

Furthermore, Senate, unlike the House, focuses more on U.S. foreign policy. Given the Senate’s lessened degree of partisan scheduling relative to that of the House, the Senate holds the ability to influence the foreign policy matters, such as the international affairs budget.

Increased attention by Senate to this budget is vital to advancing poverty reduction efforts. Therefore, by understanding the requirements for Senate, we should vote for representation focused on alleviating global poverty in the Senate.

– Christine Leung
Photo: Flickr

BUILD ActThe Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD) was created to allocate private-sector dollars to assist developing countries. The BUILD Act would create The United States International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC). The budget would be set at $60 million, which is nearly double Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s (OPIC) current funds. There will be a focus on low income and lower-middle income countries and assistance to turn them into market economies.

The BUILD Act

The importance of the BUILD Act is that it allows the USIDFC the opportunity to: 1) make loans, 2) obtain equity or financial interest in entities, 3) provide reassurance to private sector entities and qualifying countries, 4) provide technical assistance, 5) conduct special projects, 6) crate enterprise funds, 7) issue obligations and 8) charge service fees.

The BUILD Act was passed by the House on 17 July 2018. The vote was spearheaded by Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance, Rep. Adam Smith and Rep. Ted Yoho. The importance of The BUILD Act is recognized by both parties because it recommits the United States to be supportive of developing countries.

According to Rep. Adam Smith, the United States must “take an all in approach to our foreign assistance.” Programs like The BUILD Act are essential because they promote “health, peace and stability that are vital to our national security.” Rep. Ted Yoho believes The BUILD Act is a huge step towards the United States becoming more effective with foreign aid. The end goal of the BUILD Act is to take countries that are struggling with extreme poverty from “aid to trade.”

The importance of the BUILD Act for developing countries can be seen in 5 major areas:

  1. Building infrastructure
  2. Increasing obtainability of electricity
  3. Starting businesses
  4. Job creation
  5. Reducing the need for foreign aid from The United States

Helping Economies Around the World

Developing countries have difficulty attracting the investors that are needed to begin creating economic growth. In order to assist these countries and gain the advantages of helping, The U.S should be encouraging the private sector to invest. That is where The BUILD Act comes into play. This act will allow developing countries the opportunity to get out of poverty and accomplish becoming self-sufficient.  

The act will bring billions of dollars in private-sector investments to fight extreme poverty along with making it easier for American business to work in developing countries. If an American investor would like to have a business in a developing country, but the banks think that could be too risky of an investment, The USIDFC would be available to provide assistance; subsequently, helping Americans while creating more jobs and helping those dealing with extreme poverty.

The BUILD Act is an important piece of legislation that both parties feel will be a benefit to both our economy and that of developing countries in need. Countries facing extreme poverty will now have the capability to become self-sufficient.

– Olivia Hodges
Photo: U.S. Dept. of Defense

Global Food Security Reauthorization Act
The Global Food Security Reauthorization Act is a bill that re-implements the original Global Food Security Act in 2016, which essentially promotes and funds international nutrition programs. The bill itself will help millions of people worldwide who struggle with hunger, and the updated version of this act contains new amendments vital to the bill’s success.

What is the Global Food Security Act?

The Global Food Security Act was created in order to improve agricultural development internationally. Its main objectives were to establish the United States as a partner in the fight against world hunger, and to demonstrate that the U.S. government would continuously support bipartisan initiatives to prevent further malnutrition. The act also initiated alliances among the United States government, the private sector and nonprofit organizations, so that each branch could work together to pursue the bill’s goals.

Unfortunately, the original law only lasted one year — this was a major loss for all those who advocate for hunger alleviation efforts. However, the Senate reintroduced this bill in 2018, titled as the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act. This bill reaffirms the old law into existence, and adds new provisions to ensure its proper execution.

Thankfully, the new act had greater success in the Senate than its predecessor. It passed, and now awaits approval in the House of Representatives. The bill only needs a simple majority within the House, and then can be signed into law and its provisions will come to fruition.

Why Should the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act Pass?

This act will do a lot of good for a lot of diverse people around the world. This is a substantial step in the fight against world hunger and malnutrition. This is a win for the victims of hunger, and for all organizations, like The Borgen Project, who want to help people live longer, more productive lives. Some of the key reasons for the passing of the bill are as follows:

  • Firstly, the fiscal years in the new bill have extended to three years from one year in the original law, which applies to years 2018 to 2021. Unlike the 2016 act, the new bill allows more time to rightfully enforce the law. The law will be more effective since the government has more time to enact its provisions.
  • Secondly, the bill will also introduce a deworming program, which will rid individuals — mostly children — of parasites. These initiatives will occur after diet diversification and will help a number of children in different countries. The deworming programs will also encourage proper public health programs.
  • Thirdly, the focus of the bill will be on children and mothers, so that they receive an adequate and diverse nutrition, which will promote their local communities at its core.

These new provisions should allow for the proper implementation of the act, and the United States government will hopefully utilize this piece of legislation to keep its promise to help in global hunger alleviation efforts.

If the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act were to pass, then a plethora of families would be able to live healthier and safer lives, and consequently develop their societies and local communities even more. The effects of this bill will improve public health, education systems, family life and a whole host of other issues, so do your part to support and contact your representatives today.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Neglected Tropical DiseasesNeglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of diseases such as Dengue fever, rabies, hookworm and sleeping sickness that collectively affect more than one billion people around the globe. These diseases are crippling, but very often preventable and treatable. The world stands to gain a great deal from even moderate investment into fighting neglected tropical diseases.

Impact of NTDs

Neglected tropical diseases are widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America. They disproportionately affect the world’s poor and make it even harder for these people to climb out of poverty.

These diseases collectively kill hundreds of thousands of people each year and they significantly harm hundreds of millions more. NTDs can lead to sickness, deformities and even blindness. Infected children are also at risk of malnutrition and stunted growth.

These symptoms cause more than personal suffering; they also threaten the long-term development of entire communities. Adults afflicted by these diseases are often unable to work or care for their families and may become socially isolated. Affected children are often unable to regularly attend school to learn the skills they need to help themselves and their communities.

Taken together, the effects of neglected tropical diseases add up to billions of dollars in lost productivity. Those losses are hard to absorb for these already-impoverished areas.

Effectiveness of Treatments

The good news is that fighting neglected tropical diseases is easier, cheaper and more efficient than dealing with many other widespread health issues. These diseases are preventable and some, like river blindness, are treatable with currently available drugs.

Since several of these diseases are often concentrated in a single area, effective treatment of one often helps with others as well. Several of the most effective drugs are also available for free as donations from their developers. It is likely that half a billion people suffering from these diseases could be treated for less than $400 million.

With this in mind, there is a very real chance that the impact of neglected tropical diseases could be severely reduced within a generation. The World Health Organization even has a goal to completely eradicate two or more by 2020. To achieve this goal, though, it is likely that the international community will have to make a greater commitment to cooperate in fighting neglected tropical diseases.

U.S. Response to Fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases

In recent years, U.S. efforts to support researching and treating neglected tropical diseases have amounted to little more than treading water. Congress has had to renew support for existing research centers on a yearly basis since long-term authorization ended in 2009. This may be changing soon, however.

In November, the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act was sent out of committee to be considered by the full House of Representatives. While it is still in a relatively early stage, the bill has already been cosponsored by representatives from both parties.  

If implemented, the bill would protect current research funding and keep Congress more directly informed about neglected tropical diseases. It would also shift U.S. policy into directly supporting the international effort against them. Specifically, U.S. representatives at the U.N. and World Bank would be instructed to promote researching, monitoring and fighting neglected tropical diseases.

While the bill does not allocate a great deal of money for the problem (the CBO estimates that the bill will cost only $14 million over five years), the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act would be the first step in years toward more directly involving the U.S. in this crucial global health issue. With continued U.S. and international efforts, these diseases may no longer be so neglected.

– Josh Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

The READ ActAccording to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), nearly 263 million children and youth around the world are without an education. Of all of the regions, sub-Saharan Africa has the most detrimental number of children out of school – over a fifth of children between the ages of six to 11 and about one-third of children between the ages of 12 to 14. As the children grow older, the rates continue to worsen – almost 60 percent of youth between the ages of 15 to 17 are not receiving an education. The READ Act is a big step forward in the fight to change these numbers.

The Necessity of the READ Act

The UIS and the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report show that in Nigeria alone, 8.7 million children who are supposed to be in primary school are not. In Sudan, it is 2.7 million children and in Ethiopia, it is 2.1 million children. These children are not given the chance to thrive and challenge themselves and it is out of their hands due to the vast global poverty they are encompassed in.

Statistics such as this emphasize the importance of laws such as the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act. This act was signed into law in 2017, and it is this law that is providing these 263 million children (130 million of whom are girls) hope for a deserved and promising education.

Bringing the READ Act into Reality

Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Representative Dave Reichert (R-WA) first introduced the READ Act into Congress. Both Rep. Lowey and Rep. Reichert are important contributors to the passing of this bill, along with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).

The main causes as to why these 263 million children do not have access to education are conflict and political instability. This law aims to provide education to the children who are in these situations, while simultaneously aiming to improve the overall quality of education. Rep. Reichert commented to World Vision, “By giving young people in impoverished regions the tools to read and write, we will put them down a positive path where they are better able to care for themselves, the needs of their families and their communities.”

The READ Act came about as an idea: what if the United States could make a significant difference by ensuring that every child has an equal and fair opportunity for a safe, quality education? After 13 years of constant due diligence and advocates contacting Congress over 1500 times, today there is widespread global success from this act.

How the READ Act Will Help

UNICEF reports that the READ Act of 2017 “will be tasked with developing a strategy to work with partner countries and organizations to promote basic education in developing countries.” The READ Act creates programs that also promote education as a foundation for economic growth. The act not only recognizes the importance of children having access to a quality education, it emphasizes that the act will create a chain reaction in communities by providing more jobs which will aid in diminishing poverty.

Rep. Lowey stated, “Prioritizing education around the world will not only help students learn to read and write – it will ultimately help protect vulnerable communities from hunger and disease and increase economic advancement, particularly for girls and women.” The READ Act, in providing millions of children around the globe with an education, is generously increasing the chance for these children to find jobs and build stable lives one day as they get older.

It is because of American citizens’ insistence that Congress take action that the READ Act has become an applicable law. More importantly, it is because of the citizens’ efforts that millions of children around the world now have new opportunities open for them and a brighter, more hopeful future to look forward to.

– Angelina Gillispie

To find out more about the past successes of our advocacy work and our current legislative priorities in Congress, head over to our Legislation page.

Photo: Flickr

Representative Ted Yoho
In February, U.S. Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL). proposed an overhaul to foreign aid. This April, with the support of U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), and Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE), the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD Act) has gained significant momentum.

The International Development Finance Corporation

The BUILD Act, also known as S.2463, aims to consolidate the disparate U.S. agencies currently providing foreign aid into a single, new agency, to be called the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC). More specifically, there would be a consolidation of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), USAID’s Credit Authority, USAID’s Office of Private Capital and Microenterprise, and USAID’s Enterprise Funds. According to U.S. Representative Yoho, this consolidation would increase efficiency of foreign spending, and promote U.S. security, economic and diplomatic interests abroad.

The proposed agency will also benefit recipients of U.S. foreign aid. More streamlined and efficient spending in the U.S. government will allow for other countries to become stronger trading partners; in doing so, this change would also open new markets, and encourage self-sufficient economic development in communities worldwide. Supporters of the BUILD Act argue that it will help combat humanitarian concerns that plague many developing nations, including poverty, hunger and disease.

In recent weeks the BUILD Act has been publically supported by the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), the committee saying that older agencies such as OPIC need to be modernized, and as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, will strengthen American foreign aid and make the U.S. competitive.

What is the BUILD Act?

So what exactly does the BUILD Act propose? It gives the new agency, the IDFC, grantmaking capability, the ability to make equity investments, and an increased spending cap. These capabilities increase U.S. foreign aid spending, and encourage the participation of private sector capital to complement development assistance objectives. It is important to note however, that there is a regulation on how much of foreign aid spending can be used to make equity investments.

The text of the bill describes the purpose of the BUILD Act in Section 101 of the bill as, “to mobilize private capital in support of sustainable, broad-based economic growth, poverty reduction, and development through demand-driven partnerships with the private sector that further the foreign policy interests of the United States,” highlighting the benefits of the BUILD Act going both to the U.S. and international aid recipients.

While some are concerned about how the organization will actually take over USAID’s and OPIC’s duties, many are excited by the fact that the creation of the IDFC will create further accountability and cost no money, making it an increasingly appealing bill. While more work needs to be done concerning the transition, oversight on the IDFC will fall to Congress, and external auditors, who will preform regular audits of the organization.

Allied For a Cause

U.S. Representative Adam Smith, a co-sponsor on the initial proposal, announced a press release that reads: “Through our partnerships with friends and allies, we work to raise up local communities – strengthening institutions, combating hunger and disease, and ensuring that development projects have sustainable, long lasting impacts.” Representative Smith identifies how this increased spending on development improves the lives of individuals abroad.

The BUILD Act is gaining momentum in Washington, and purports to improve efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid deployment.

– Katherine Kirker
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