This was a vote on House passage of H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. H.R. 2410, among other things, authorized an Office of Global Women’s Issues in the State Department; funds for the International Atomic Energy Agency; the payment of all dues to the U.N.; a significant expansion of the Peace Corps; an increase in international broadcasting activities; a strengthening of the State Department arms control and nonproliferation bureaus; 1,000 new diplomatic positions in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other strategic areas; 213 positions dedicated to improving training in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, and Urdu; and additional arms control experts and counterterrorism specialists. It also reformed the U.S. system of export controls for military technology, improved oversight of U.S. security assistance, and required a report to Congress on actions taken by the United States to maintain Israel's qualitative military edge over its enemies in the Middle East.
Rep. Berman (D-CA), who was leading the effort to pass H.R. 2410, outlined what he termed “the complex and dangerous” situation facing the U.S. and said the military should not shoulder the entire burden of dealing with it. He added that “the State Department and our other civilian foreign affairs agencies have a critical role to play in protecting U.S. national security. Diplomacy, development, and defense are the three key pillars of our U.S. national security policy. By wisely investing resources to strengthen our diplomatic capabilities, we can help prevent conflicts before they start and head off conditions that lead to failed states. For years we have failed to provide the State Department with the resources it desperately needs to pursue its core missions. With the expansion of U.S. diplomatic responsibilities in the 1990s, and the more recent demands of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Foreign Service has been strained to the breaking point.”
Berman cited the recent statement by Defense Secretary Gates that: “(I)t has become clear that America's civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long.” Berman then said “(T)he legislation before us today takes an important first step in correcting that situation.” Berman also cited a range of organizations supporting the measure, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, CARE, and the American Council on Education, a coalition of all the major public and private universities.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who was leading the opposition to H.R 2410l said “the fundamental problems (with) this bill are that (it) calls for exorbitant spending in the absence of true reform, and that the bill does not take the difficult but necessary step of setting priorities, either with out-of-control spending or with important international issues that are facing our country. By our best estimate, the bill before us represents an estimated 12 percent increase in planned expenditures above the levels of fiscal year 2009. It creates 20 new government entities, offices, foundations, programs and the like. . . We have to ask ourselves, where is the money coming from to support the additional funding? “
Referring to the claim of the supporters of the measure the State Department was suffering from years of neglect, Ros- Lehtinen cited Congressional Research Service statistics that “funding for the State Department and related agencies doubled from fiscal year 2000 through 2008. This clearly shows that growing the bureaucracy and throwing money at the Department of State are not the answer.” She also claimed that there was not good management oversight of employees and personnel needs at the State Department; and referring to the $2 billion in funds for the United Nations authorized in the measure, Ros-Lehtinen asked: “Why should American taxpayers be asked to write a blank check to the U.N.?”
The legislation passed on a vote of 235-187. Two hundred twenty-eight Democrats and seven Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty-nine Republicans and eighteen Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved and sent on to the Senate the Foreign Relations Authorization Act.