Global poverty champions

Recently, leadership is skyrocketing in congress on the subject of global poverty, especially highlighting several global poverty champions. But who are the people behind these victories? Here are Congress’s top ten global poverty champions:

1. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)

Rep. Smith leads as the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee and Co-Chair of the Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance. In addition, he holds a position on The Borgen Project’s Board of Directors. Having the opportunity to travel the developing world, Smith sought to change global poverty by sponsoring the Global Poverty Act until President Obama made the measure a central aspect of his foreign policy. Smith proves himself a true ally for the world’s poor by supporting key global poverty bills such as the recent Global Food Security Act (GFSA) as well as the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability, M-CORE, Reach Every Mother and Child and Electrify Africa Acts.

2. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA)

Rep. Reichert has served in the House since 2004 and sits on The Borgen Project’s Board of Directors alongside Rep. Smith. He also chairs the Subcommittee on Trade, co-chairs the Global Health Caucus, and has membership on the Caucuses on Hunger and Malaria. In 2010, he was appointed to the President’s Export Council to help guide U.S. international trade policy. In addition, he is the sponsor of the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, which will boost the U.S.’s involvement in ending maternal and child deaths in developing countries.

3. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

Senior member of the House, Rep. Lee, effectively uses her membership on the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs to expand overseas assistance. As a result of her commitment, Lee twice served as the Democratic Congressional Representative to the United Nations. In 2011, Lee helped found the HIV/AIDS Caucus. Prior to the caucus’s formation, she sponsored or cosponsored every principal piece of HIV/AIDS legislation. Most recently, Lee put forth a resolution calling the eradication of childhood AIDS a global priority.

4. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)

With 35 years of congressional experience, Rep. Smith chairs the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations and co-chairs the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe as well as the Congressional-Executive Committee on China. In just this congressional session alone, he introduced legislation to end tropical diseases, increase exports to Africa and protect human rights in China. The Congressman also sponsored the successful GFSA which passed with bipartisan support.

5. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)

As the Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, member of the Commission on Human Rights and the Tuberculosis Elimination and HIV/AIDS Caucuses, Rep. Engel is no stranger to the many concerns surrounding global poverty. He is especially interested in Latin America and the Caribbean. Not only did Engel lead the U.S. Delegation to the Summit of the Americas, he hopes to reduce poverty in the region through U.S. aid and economic development. In June, he presented a bill directing the State Department and USAID to boost free trade and economic diversity in marginalized Latin American and Caribbean communities.

6. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)

Named one of the most effective lawmakers in Congress by the Washington Post, Rep. Royce persistently defends the world’s poor. Prior to being the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he presided over the Africa Subcommittee, where he established concern for the continent. Royce introduced the Electrify Africa Act to provide power to over 50 million Africans. In addition, he co-authored the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that President Clinton signed into law in 2000 and Congress reauthorized for another 10 years.

7. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

As the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and 2009 recipient of UNESCO Center for Peace’s anti-poverty award, Sen. Cardin does not hold back when it comes to addressing global poverty. He spearheaded bills to expand the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s activity in Africa, increase USAID’s use of science and technology to find poverty solutions, develop a rescue plan in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, prevent genocide and end war crimes in Syria.

8. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)

Sen. Corker, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, serves not only the people of Tennessee but also the people of the world. Beyond being the sponsor of the Senate version of Electrify Africa, Corker authored the Food for Peace Reform Act, the Global Gateways Trade Capacity Act and the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act. Great acts which earn him a place amongst these global poverty champions.

9. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)

A member of the Foreign Relations Committee, State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and the Caucuses on India, AIDS and Malaria, Sen. Coons believes the U.S. should play a greater role in reducing global poverty. Coons strongly supported a number of important measures such as the GFSA, Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act and Reach Every Mother and Child Act. Furthermore, he introduced legislation to combat maternal and child deaths in Africa and to alleviate threats to security and human rights in Somalia. He was also the only member of Congress to visit Liberia during the Ebola epidemic two years ago.

10. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)

Sen. Collins is not as internationally-focused as her colleagues, but her commitment to global poverty initiatives is not lacking, earning her a place on this list of global poverty champions. Rated the most bipartisan member of Congress by Georgetown University and the Lugar Center, Collins received much support for her landmark Reach Every Mother and Child Act. Moreover, she initiated bills to develop a strategy to end Boko Haram’s terror and to partner the State Department with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

The Borgen Project commends these global poverty champions for their long-lasting devotion to ending global poverty. Are these your representatives? Make sure to thank them for their hard work.

Kristina Evans

Photo: Pixabay

out of poverty caucus
The Out of Poverty Caucus, also known as the COPC, was founded in January 2007 for the purpose of creating solutions to help end poverty in America. Led by congresswoman Barbara Lee, COPC brings together lawmakers and congressmen to focus their energy and resources into developing new policies to help find solutions to factors that contribute to poverty.

The COPC will develop legislation and gather support keeping the following principles in mind: Provide affordable healthcare, provide affordable housing, reduce unemployment and reduce hunger among many others.

The COPC also works to connect people to resources and anti-poverty associations. Government subsidized programs that provide affordable food like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, provide necessary services to people.

A census done in 2011 shows that approximately one in six Americans were living below the poverty line. That number settled around 46.2 million Americans. Safety net programs help keep many Americans from falling below the poverty line which is why it is important that the federal government continues to use federal funds to support these programs.

Medicaid is also an important program that the COPC seeks to continue funding for because it provides for Americans who cannot afford privatized health care. When private health care is so expensive, other alternatives need to be accessible to citizens.

“Social service programs serve as a life line for our nation’s low income and poor communities,” Lee said. “Social services need to be provided by the government to provide a safety net for people who have lost their jobs or have dealt with unfortunate circumstances.”

Though there have been differing opinions about what factors contribute to whether a person is considered to be living in poverty, there has been strong bipartisan support on the issue.

Coalitions like the Out of Poverty Caucus are important because they seek to represent the needs of impoverished Americans in Congress. In 2014 when Congress had multiple hearings on whether or not to drop bombs on Syria, SNAP was in the midst of being cut by five percent.

Representative Jim McGovern, (D-Mass), a proponent of putting the impoverished first, addressed the situation.

“I hope through all this Syria stuff, that we’re able to shed a bit of light on this, because I think most Americans, if they realize what’s going on, would be outraged,” McGovern said. “The fact is that foreign affairs, and especially military action abroad, will be more prominent in the media and in Congress.”

The COPC deals with numerous issues including childhood poverty, education, transportation, energy and education among many others. The organization uses congressmen, congresswomen, lawmakers and lawyers to put together legislation that focuses on bettering people’s lives.

Maxine Gordon

Sources: The Nation, Out of Poverty Caucus, Huffington Post

The dawn of 2015 not only means a new year, but also a new legislative session for the freshly initiated 114th Congress.

In this new legislative session, old anti-poverty bills that died in committee last year have a chance to be reintroduced, and other new foreign assistance bills are being introduced for the first time.

One newly reintroduced bill is H.R. 57: The Equal Rights and Access for the Women of South Sudan Act. The bill, introduced on Jan. 6 by Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, promotes the belief that much more U.S. assistance is necessary in South Sudan, particularly with regards to women’s prosperity.

The bill aims to channel greater portions of U.S. relief assistance to local South Sudanese groups, particularly Sudanese women’s organizations, as well as increase women’s access to land, water, agricultural inputs, credit, and property, among other goals.

On Jan. 9, California Representative Barbara Lee introduced House Concurrent Resolution 6, which promotes the belief that the U.S. should annually dedicate at least one percent of GDP for nonmilitary assistance programs.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US currently spends approximately $31 billion, or 0.19 percent of GDP, on nonmilitary foreign assistance annually.

The concurrent resolution would require majority approval from both houses of Congress, but would not require approval from President Obama.

A handful of other anti-poverty bills either died in committee last year, or passed one house but failed to go past committee in the other.

One such bill was the Global Food Security Act of 2014, which authorized a new U.S. foreign assistance strategy to reduce global hunger and improve nutritional outcomes in developing countries. The bill passed the House last September but died in committee in the Senate.

The House Electrify Africa Act, which promoted greater access to electricity and renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa, saw a similar fate last year. The bill passed the House last May but never got past a committee vote in the Senate.

Nevertheless, it is not unusual for failed bills to be reintroduced and passed in a new session. The Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014 promoted revisions to a 2005 act of the same name that provided greater access to clean water for over 2.5 billion people worldwide. The revised bill was first introduced in 2011, and was reintroduced every year thereafter until it was signed into law in December 2014.

– Katrina Beedy

Sources: Government Tracker 1, Government Tracker 2, Government Tracker 3, Government Tracker 4, Government Tracker 5, The Borgen Project, Slate, Water Aid, U.S. Congress
Photo: Digital