Jim Kolbe

Congress Can't Dodge Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund's Approaching Insolvency | Commentary

As if stirring, like Rip Van Winkle, from a 20-year snooze, Congress is finally awakened to the teetering finances of the Social Security’s disability program. Better late than never, but policymakers have known for years that this day would arrive — and it has.

On Development Policy, Congress Looks Functional | Commentary

Something peculiar has happened around President Barack Obama’s trip to Africa: a famously dysfunctional Congress actually sent a constructive, bipartisan message to the president about the future of engagement with the continent and other developing countries.

Two weeks ago, a group of Republicans and Democrats led by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., ranking member Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, sent a letter to the Obama administration calling for more aggressive efforts to bolster foreign assistance transparency. In the letter, they argued that transparency provides “the critical information needed to achieve better coordination with other donors, avoid duplication and waste, and provide Congress the means to oversee” U.S. foreign assistance programs. Then last week, an amendment to the House farm bill authored again by Royce and Engel, which would have overhauled the U.S. food aid system to purchase more resources locally and build greater self-sufficiency in poor countries, came within a surprising inch of passing. And, thanks to the leadership of Poe and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., bipartisan, bicameral legislation will soon be introduced to require greater transparency and accountability in foreign assistance.

Poe and Kolbe: Shedding More Light on U.S. Foreign Aid

The United States faces myriad challenges around the globe. We are engaged in military conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia. We are pursuing terrorists in far corners of the world. We respond when other countries need help by offering humanitarian aid to cope with crises — from famine in the Horn of Africa to earthquakes in Haiti and tsunamis in Japan. At the same time, we compete with China and other emerging economies to maintain our position as an influential and powerful force in the global economy. Clearly, the need for effective U.S. global engagement is more important than ever.

Meanwhile, at home, we are confronted with a skyrocketing domestic budget deficit that places enormous pressure on all areas of the federal government’s budget. While re-evaluating how we spend American tax dollars at home, we must also closely examine how and where we spend our international assistance budget.

Kolbe, Beckmann and Ingram: U.S. Foreign Assistance Needs Further Reform

In times of plenty and peril over the past 60 years, America’s global leadership has been best exemplified by the helping hand that we have offered to people at the mercy of extreme poverty, disease and tyranny in the darkest corners of the globe. Our nation has saved and improved millions of lives by extending that hand and by focusing on the principle that effective development assistance is squarely in our national interest.

Recent budget battles in Congress have made it seem as though we have to choose between continuing or abandoning this leadership because of America’s real and pressing deficit issues. But the facts tell a somewhat different story. We spend a little over 1 percent of the federal budget on foreign assistance and far less than that on programs that are focused on promoting sustainable development and reducing global poverty. Drastically reducing or even eliminating this money would have little effect on our deficit, but it would undermine the significant political and economic progress that has been made in the developing world — progress that reduces our vulnerability to threats that know no borders.

Security Is Linchpin to Iraq Progress

During a recent visit to Iraq, 10 members of a bipartisan delegation visited 30 students in the Women’s Secondary School in Kirkuk. Upon asking the students what they needed, we heard an answer we were not quite expecting — air conditioning. The commander accompanying us said that when they arrived in the area, the schoolgirls were asking for restrooms. From requesting a necessity to requesting a luxury — a sure sign of progress.   And we have much more to do, especially in these key areas:

1. Security: All other aspects of creating a democratic and peaceful Iraq depend on the security situation. For example, rebuilding