Tuesday, March 11, 2008

IL Call-in: Restore cut in Int. Affairs Budget (poverty assistance at risk)

An action call-in from Bread for the World. Please call by end of day tomorrow to help with the budget for poverty-focused development assistance!

MESSAGE: Please call Senator Barack Obama by 6:00 pm Eastern Time, Wednesday, March 12 at 1-800-826-3688. Ask your senator to cosponsor the Feinstein-Smith amendment to restore the cut in the International Affairs Budget proposed by the FY 2009 budget resolution.

[Note: This toll-free number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard, where you will ask to be connected to your senator’s office in order to leave your message.]

Key elements of this message:
The International Affairs budget is essential to building hope and opportunity around the world. The current FY 2009 Senate budget resolution shortchanges this important work. Please co-sponsor the Feinstein-Smith amendment to restore funding to the International Affairs account that was cut in the Budget Committee.

The budget resolution is the first step in the congressional decision-making process on the federal budget. The president submitted his request for the fiscal year 2009 budget on February 4th. His budget request included $39.8 billion for the International Affairs accounts, including foreign assistance. Not including emergency spending, this was almost a $5 billion increase over the fiscal year 2008 levels.

After the president submits his budget proposal, the Senate and the House Budget Committees develop separate budget resolutions. The budget resolution makes changes in tax policy and mandatory spending (i.e. Medicare, Social Security) and sets a ceiling for the total amount of discretionary spending (i.e. health research, defense, foreign assistance). The resolution provides non-binding guidance to the Appropriations Committee on the amount each area of discretionary spending should receive.

Last week, the two budget committees finished work on their respective resolutions. The Senate Budget Committee’s recommendation for International Affairs--$35.7 billion--is significantly less than the House resolution. The House Budget Committee recommended $38.3 billion for the International Affairs accounts.

The Feinstein-Smith amendment would restore $2.6 billion to the International Affairs budget in the Senate Budget Resolution to bring it in line with the higher level proposed by the House of Representatives. Your Senator's name on the amendment are crucial to making a real difference in the level of funding as the appropriations process moves forward. By asking your senator to cosponsor the amendment, we can show support for this increase and ensure its consideration on the Senate floor.

This first step in the fight over the International Affairs budget is a critical one to make sure we keep our promise to help the world's poorest people. Later, we'll work to make sure that enough of the International Affairs budget goes to the programs that are making a real difference in the developing world. But that fight will be much more difficult if we don't get a high level of funding here and now.

Key points:
- Co-sponsor the Feinstein-Smith amendment.
- In addition to supporting vital diplomatic efforts around the world, the International Affairs budget also supports effective programs focused on poverty reduction by improving agriculture, nutrition, health, water and education systems.
- The U.S. should not shortchange these critical programs affecting millions of poor and hungry people around the world.

Calls completed by: 6:00 pm Wednesday, March 12.

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