WASHINGTON – The House voted Tuesday to significantly slash President Bush’s funding request for an international aid program considered a cornerstone of his campaign to spread democracy.
Money for the program, called the Millennium Challenge Account, is included in the $20.3 billion foreign aid bill the GOP-led House approved on a 393-32 vote.
Overall, the bill for next year is roughly 11 percent less than the president proposed but nearly 4 percent more than this year’s funding. The Senate has yet to write its version of the bill, which provides health, education, counter-narcotics and military assistance to poor nations.
House lawmakers chose to pad several of the president’s other proposals with the $1.25 billion they cut from his request for the Millennium Challenge Account, a program that gives countries extra money if they pursue political, economic and human rights reforms.
Among the winners: a fund to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. It’s slated to get $2.7 billion, about a half-billion dollars more than this year and $131 million above the president’s request.
Bush had asked for $3 billion for the third year of the Millennium Challenge Account, double the current funding level. The House bill would provide only $1.75 billion.
Congress has provided $2.5 billion for the program over the last two years – $1.3 billion less than Bush requested. The corporation overseeing the program has spent only about $4 million of that, says the Congressional Research Service, which writes reports for lawmakers.
House lawmakers emphasized they were providing record funding for the program – roughly $262 million more than it provided for the current year – and noted that the corporation hasn’t spent most of the money it already has.
The corporation projects using up all its money by early next year.
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