Congressional LeadersA Gallup poll taken before the government shutdown of 2018-19 found American’s approval rating of congressional leaders’ job performance at 18%. More recent polls show ratings have improved but remain low, with an average of 24.2% of people approving of Congress, according to Real Clear Politics. Government shutdowns and highly publicized filibusters highlight the challenge of passing bills and contribute to these low approval ratings. In fact, in 2016, after a House of Representatives sit-in over gun control measures, political analyst Larry Jacobs told a Minnesota local CBS affiliate that more than 90% of bills die in Senate or House committees.

However, as notes, passing bills is meant to be difficult with the checks and balances system in place. What’s more, bills do get introduced constantly. For instance, each of the 200 senators and 435 representatives in Congress is involved with at least a few of the hundreds of bills introduced throughout any given leaders’ tenure. Here are five leaders who have been especially active in supporting bills directly impacting the fight against global poverty.

5 Congressional Leaders Tackling Global Poverty Issues

  1. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). Susan Collins has been a senator since 1997.  She directly sponsored 18 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 374. Bills she introduced include the Clean Cookstoves and Fuels Support Act, which she introduced in various forms in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015. These bills encourage the U.S. to better help advance an international initiative to make clean cooking accessible to millions of people worldwide. Collins also introduced the Reach Every Mother and Child Acts of 2015, 2017, and 2019—which urge the president to create a five-year strategy to, as the bill states, help end “preventable child and maternal deaths globally by 2030.”
  2. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). A Senator since 1993, Robert Menendez has sponsored 178 and co-sponsored 650 international affairs bills. Menendez’s sponsored bills include the Ebola Eradication Act of 2019, which passed in the Senate in September 2019, the End Tuberculosis Now Act of 2019, which is still under Senate consideration, and the Venezuela Humanitarian Relief, Reconstruction, and Rule of Law Act of 2018.
  3. Representative Lois Frankel (D-Fl). Lois Frankel has been in Congress since 2013. She’s sponsored 12 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 200 with a focus on women’s rights issues abroad. For example, one bill she introduced herself is the Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act of 2019, which authorizes aid to women’s groups abroad that address terrorism-related issues. Frankel also introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act, a bill improving access to education for young girls worldwide. Frankel introduced the initial version in 2018 and passed the new 2019 version in the House in January 2020.
  4. Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ). Christopher Smith has been in Congress since 1981. In that time, he’s sponsored 287 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 1,208. One bill he introduced is the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act, which directs the U.S. to help treat and eliminate under-the-radar tropical diseases to improve lives in at-risk regions. The bill passed in the House in December and is under review by a Senate committee. Another bill he introduced is the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018, which extends the programs of the Global Food Security Act of 2016. Smith’s bill was a sibling to a Senate bill that passed through both legislatures first, becoming law in October 2018.
  5. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY). A Congressman since 1989, Eliot Engel has personally introduced 150 bills addressing international affairs issues and co-sponsored an additional 1,312. One bill he introduced is the Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act of 2017, which calls for the U.S. to assist Venezuela amid its growing humanitarian crisis. The bill passed in the House in December 2017 and is under Senate review. Engel also introduced the Global Fragility Act to “establish the interagency Global Fragility Initiative to stabilize conflict-affected areas and prevent violence globally.” This act passed in the House in May 2019 and is under review by the Senate.

These five congressional leaders have worked directly on hundreds of bills addressing issues of global poverty. The examples above are only a snapshot of their individual contributions. These five leaders have had a total of 30 sponsored bills in the international affairs category become law; the process of introducing and passing bills never ends. The upcoming election will determine whether these leaders will continue to build on their legacies or cede their place to new leaders eager to make a mark on the legislative process.

– Amanda Ostuni
Photo: Flickr

2015 House Budget Cuts
In its recently released April 2014 newsletter, Bread for the World voiced its “deep disappointment” for the 2015 fiscal year House budget proposal. This proposal, introduced by Representative Paul Ryan, makes deep cuts to programs that help poor and hungry people in the United States and abroad.

The budget proposal cuts over $5 trillion over 10 years and calls for many changes to low-income programs. These policy changes will kick an estimated four million people out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, program. The changes to SNAP are significant, as assistance will now come in the form of a federal block loan and will not be able to increase should need arise. Negative impacts also reach Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and low-income tax credits.

The House’s proposal also cuts the International Affairs budget by 11 percent. Decreases to the International Affairs budget are detrimental to the success of food aid and other humanitarian efforts and undermine U.S. ability to fight poverty in the world’s poorest countries. The proposal also moves the Millennium Challenge Corporation to the position of lead agency for foreign development assistance, diminishing USAID’s role in ending global hunger.

Although many agree that federal spending is out of control, David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, believes that pulling funding for programs that support the most vulnerable is clearly a poor reallocation of resources. “Fiscal responsibility means not sacrificing our commitment to reducing hunger and poverty for the sake of reducing a deficit that vulnerable people did not create,” Beckmann states. “Lawmakers must stop violating the basic principle to protect ‘the least of these’ in budget decisions, which Congress has adhered to in all major budget agreements over the past 30 years.”

– Madisson Barnett

Sources: Bread for the World, Bipartisan Policy Center
Photo: PennLive

For those of us just finishing a college degree, the choice to join the workforce or to pursue advanced study is a tough one.  If you happen to be interested in a career in global development and wish to fight on the front lines for U.S. global policy, having a professional degree is invaluable.

Most positions that organizations such as the Department of State, for example, require advanced degrees.  Even when no advanced degree is required, having a Master’s can give you a leg up on applications.  But a few more years of school is much more than cramming for finals (although, sorry, that’s part of it).  It can provide hands-on experience and opportunities to engage with global development on the ground both here and abroad.  If you are ready to take the plunge into graduate school, here are the top five graduate programs in International Affairs:

1. Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs – Princeton University

The premiere program for graduate study in global affairs. WWS boasts multiple Secretaries of State, Congressional leaders, and corporate leaders as alumni.  One of the biggest draws is the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.  Princeton administers the fellowship, but it is funded by the Department of State.

2. School of Foreign Service – Georgetown University

What better way to begin your career in foreign service than by studying in the nation’s capital?  Georgetown uses its prime location in D.C. to frequently attract visiting professors such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former USAID director Andrew Natsios.

3. School of Advanced International Study – Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins’s M.A. program boasts that half of their students spend a year abroad during their course of study.  Students may also pick their region of interest, ranging from African Studies, to Southeast Asia studies, to International Economics.

4. John F. Kennedy School of Government – Harvard University

Besides the amazing resources the Kennedy School offers as part of Harvard, the School recently introduced a two-year Master in Public Administration in International Development program.

5. The Fletcher School – Tufts University

For those interested in international business development or environmental studies, the Fletcher School is an ideal choice.  Of the school’s many centers, the Center for Emerging Market Enterprises and the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy are world-renowned.

– Taylor Diamond

Sources: Princeton, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Tufts
Photo: Brown University

Whether you’re a high school student or an undergraduate student, studying political science can offer an opportunity to learn a great deal about global poverty: it’s causes, history, and the many attempted legislations and movements that attempt to end it. Understanding domestic and international politics helps us take steps towards eliminating global poverty and hunger completely. Here are five possible scholarships/grants for those interested in studying political science at an undergraduate level or beyond:

1. The APSA Minority Fellowship  

This fellowship is for minorities (African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, and Latino/as) that are interested in pursuing doctoral studies in political sciences.  Started by the American Political Science Association in 1969, this fellowship supports about 12 eligible doctoral candidates every year.

2. APSA Congressional Fellowship Program 

This Congressional Fellowship Program sponsors people across various disciplines to join congressional sessions and understand how legislative processes work. For aspiring political scientists and politicians, this is an excellent program because it gives great hands-on experience and helps build one’s understanding of our nation’s government and how it works.

3. Davidson Fellows Scholarships

This scholarships is for those under 18 who have displayed remarkable talent in one of many listed subjects. Fellows are given scholarships worth $50,000, $25,000, and $10,000. Recipients of this award are honored at a reception in Washington D.C.

4. National Foundation for Women Legislators/NRA Bill of Rights Essay Scholarship 

High school female juniors and seniors are eligible for this essay contest. Every year, six winners receive $3,000 and are taken to the National Foundation for Women Legislators Annual Conference. Each year, the contest has a different prompt related to the political sciences and women’s issues.

5. Public Policy and International Affairs Program

For those undergraduate students interested in public service, this is a great program that puts promising students through a 7-week Junior Summer Institute. These students are then given financial support if they attend certain graduate programs, and join a group of alumni, thereby receiving support and advice from mentors.

– Aalekhya Malladi

Sources: ASPA (Minority Fellowship), ASPA (Congressional Fellowship), Davidson GiftedPPIA
Photo: Belmont

Richard Crespin has joined the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) as the Director of Business Outreach. He will be responsible for working as a USGLC ambassador, engaging Americans about the importance of international affairs programs in strengthening markets for U.S. goods and services. He will convey how investing abroad creates jobs in the United States and helps to keep the US secure.

USGLC is excited that Crespin has chosen to join their team. USGLC believes Crespin’s experience as a business leader with experience in corporate opportunity and corporate responsibility will mesh incredibly well with their organization’s goals and mission. Crespin provides the USGLC a unique opportunity to demonstrate how U.S. engagement abroad is good for business at home.

Crespin’s resume boasts substantial experience working in the private, public, and civil sectors. He was worked as the Executive Director of the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association. He has also worked with noteworthy companies and organizations including the American Red Cross, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Department of Defense.  He attended George Washington University and Harvard Business School. Currently, he works for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Editorial Board for the Sustainable Business Forum and on the Board of Directors for the Society for International Development among others.

Crespin has stressed the importance of investing in foreign economies. He has said that American presence in these markets is a, “surefire way to grow our own economy and create quality jobs across the country.” As the new Director of Business outreach, Crespin says he is excited to work with businesses to build support for new tools of development and diplomacy.

The USGLC provides an excellent platform for outreach. The USGLC is a broad-based network of 400 businesses and NGOs, national security and foreign policy experts and business, faith-based, academic and community leaders. Members support a smart power approach that elevates diplomacy along with defense, in effect building a better and safer world.

– Caitlin Zusy 
Source USGLC
Photo Twitter

Admiral James Loy wrote a piece for Defense News in which he defended US funding for international aid. He explained why international affairs spending should not be cut. The article was titled, simply, “Don’t Cut International Affairs Spending”.

When Admiral Loy joined the military, our foreign policy and worldview was defined by nations who wanted to do us harm. This made American foreign policy strategy simple and straightforward, however, times have changed. The Admiral plainly states that in order to secure our country, it is absolutely critical for us to invest in development and diplomacy alongside our defense systems.

In his opinion, our international affairs budget is absolutely necessary. He believes that exact budget is responsible, in large part, for protecting our national security at home. He devoutly feels that our International Affairs budget should remain a part of national security, and that cuts to the budget would jeopardize investments and progress in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

This budget, he says, promotes our security by addressing complex threats around the world in the form of global pandemics, infectious diseases, and instability as a result of food shortages and natural disasters. This funding allows the United States to prevent conflicts before they even occur.

The minuscule amount of our budget spent on international affairs (only one percent!) provides a massive return on investment. Admiral Loy believes our international spending not only limits our military spending abroad, but it also protects the lives of US soldiers.

Admiral James Loy stated that, as a country, Americans must be aware of our position around the world. We need to provide potentially unstable countries reason to see us as friends and not foes by assisting them in building a better way of life. We must work to ensure developing countries have access to economic growth, clean water, encouraged rule of law, and that we help stop the spread of preventable diseases.

Admiral Loy, like many other top US military officials, understands the importance of foreign aid and foreign spending. Foreign aid is an investment in our future. It will provide a return larger than the initial investment. Admiral Loy’s final parting words stated that, “a strong and effective International Affairs Budget is essential to our national security, and this must continue to be a priority for our nation moving forward.”

Admiral James Loy served as commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1998-2002, and deputy secretary of Homeland Security from 2003-2005. He currently serves as a co-Chair of the National Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

– Caitlin Zusy

Source: U.S. Global Leadership Coalition
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard