Both houses of Congress are experiencing a debilitating degree of polarization in 2017. The Washington Post called the 2016 political climate on Capitol Hill a ‘golden age of partisanship,’ one that is likely to become only more acrimonious as the already fractious 115th Congress progresses. However, when it comes to poverty, both sides of the aisle often find common ground. Here are five things Democrats and Republicans agree on about global poverty.
- The Importance of the Foreign Aid Budget
In the wake of President Trump’s proposed major cut to foreign aid, both Democratic and Republican members of the Senate spoke out in support of the current level. Joining the chorus of Democratic opposition to the proposal, Senator Lindsay Graham (Republican, South Carolina) described any bill outlining cuts to foreign aid as ‘dead on arrival,’ citing the importance of American leadership in disaster relief.
- Poverty as a Threat to National Security
One of the things Democrats and Republicans agree on about global poverty is the threat it poses to national security. In an op-ed in Politico co-written by John McCain (Republican, Arizona) and Tim Kaine (Democrat, Virginia), the senators emphasize how poverty breeds the conditions that lead to extremism and ultimately violence against Americans. To avoid future wars and protect American soldiers, the senators warn, foreign aid programs must be retained.
- Poverty Alleviation as Beneficial to Economy
In a speech on the Senate floor last February, Marco Rubio (Republican, Florida) stressed how bringing developing nations out of poverty cycles allows them to participate in trade with American exporters and creates a bigger market for U.S. products. During his tenure as Secretary of State, John Kerry described foreign aid as “not charity, but an investment in a strong America.” He then cited how foreign aid allows new economic partnerships to flourish with developing nations.
- The Need to Protect the State Department’s Budget
Nurturing the ‘soft power’ capabilities of the State Department is another thing both parties agree on. President Trump’s Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, urged the State Department’s budget be maintained, saying that, if it wasn’t, ‘I’m going to need to buy more ammunition.’ Many congressional Democrats are in concert with Mattis, among them Patrick Leahy (Vermont) who condemned any state department cuts as a retreat from American leadership in global affairs.
- Food Security is Paramount
In 2016, the Global Food Security Act received widespread bipartisan support, a bill that gives the executive branch authority to create a global food security strategy. The 7 billion dollar allocation achieved 100 cosponsors in the House from both parties, a definitive example of both parties cooperating to tackle global poverty.
The things Democrats and Republicans agree on about global poverty show the potential that exists for a bipartisan approach to poverty alleviation. Despite the fractious atmosphere in Washington in 2017, a clear common interest to tackle poverty head-on is visible between Democrats and Republicans.
– Jonathan Riddick