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Mar 16, 2008

Big push to increase development funding

In the past four weeks, members of LPF joined people around the U.S. to raise their voices and successfully advocate to restore $4.1 billion to the proposed International Affairs Budget for the coming year. It passed by a 73-23 vote in the U.S. Senate! This margin was encouraging because the budget sets spending limits for the next stages of activity in Congress (authorization and appropriation).

This was a significant victory to ensure that resources are expanded for effective poverty-focused development assistance programs. The Foreign Operations bill supports life-saving programs like the Child Survival and Health Fund.

But our work is far from over. We ask you to join with others who care about hunger and poverty as we seek to advocate for three things to hold on to this victory.

Please contact your two Senators with this message: Please do all in your power to allocate at least $38.2 billion to Foreign Operations for fiscal year 2009; to increase poverty-related development assistance by $5 billion; and to pass The Global Poverty Act (S. 2433).

Here are some sample letters (html, pdf)

For more information on hunger related issues, visit our hunger resources page.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to use your voice for peace and justice!



Early Wednesday morning (March 12), we learned that the proposed Senate Budget Resolution slashed funding for the International Affairs Budget, which sets funding levels for federal spending on the State Dept., embassies, diplomacy -- and of special concern again this year, poverty-focused development aid.

LPF put out an urgent call to 900 people on our leadership, advocacy, and youth leaders lists.

Our friends in Congress have built an impressive bi-partisan group of supporters including several powerful Republicans, conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. Two of the strongest Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Joe Biden (D-Del) sponsored an amendment that would restore all $4.1 billion cut from the International Affairs budget that includes poverty-focused development aid. There were more than twenty other amendments being considered Thursday and we watched the debate on all those other issues consume the afternoon and go well into the evening.

I am happy to report that the Lugar/Biden amendment passed by an overwhelming 73-23 vote due to lobbying around the country and the strong bi-partisan sponsorship we’d built ahead of time. Talking it up among your friends can help lay the groundwork for asking for their help on the next stages of this effort getting the best budget framework possible this month and then in the fall during the appropriations committee and floor process. If you can write a Letter to the Editor all the better.

This victory is an important one but there is still much to do. The budget resolution is crucial since it sets the limits for what is available for the appropriations committees to allocate. But this budget and the size of the vote sends an important message to the appropriators who will be making those decisions.

Thanks for all your help in making this happen. At a time when it often feels like we can’t do much in the political sphere, it is wonderful to know that there are places where our voice can count.

Blessings and thank you
Glen Gersmehl
National Coordinator, Lutheran Peace Fellowship

some details:
Today, for every $100 the U.S. spends on military resources, approximately two dollars goes to the civilian programs that could prevent military action, support a balanced response to security threats, or secure the peace. The U.S. presently spends more in three weeks of military operations in Iraq than it has spent to rebuild and secure Afghanistan in the six years since September 11th, 2001.

"This vote sends a strong statement that we cannot rely on military power alone to make our nation secure," said Senator Biden. "We face many challenges around the world – the rise of religious fundamentalism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the spread of disease, failed states that are vectors for all those threats. Not one of them can be met solely or even primarily with military force. This legislation will allow us to continue the work now underway to rebuild Afghanistan, to support our ongoing non-proliferation programs, to provide the manpower and skills for our Civilian Stabilization Initiative, to fight AIDS – to all the things that reduce threats, relieve human suffering, and help to rebuild our moral stature in the world."

Last week, two distinguished former senior military officers, General Anthony Zinni and Admiral Leighton Smith, testified before the Foreign Relations Committee that America’s priorities must be reordered to protect our national security. They called for an emphasis on "smart power" – using our nation’s diplomatic and economic resources to protect our interests.

As Biden puts it, "We can all see the result in both Iraq and Afghanistan, of not having the capabilities, the resources, or the plan, to turn military action into a sustainable peace. This amendment alone will not fix that problem. But it will keep us from making it worse."