Could the Budget Battle Stifle a “Wave of Freedom”?

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In a press release last week, Gary Ackerman continued his unrelenting support of the uprisings taking place throughout the Middle East.

While speaking specifically about Moammar Gadhafi, whose actions the congressman called “inexcusable and criminal,” Ackerman also called for broader U.S. support throughout the region.

“A wave of freedom is blowing through the Middle East,” Ackerman said in the release, “and the United States must stand with the people of the region who are demanding nothing more than the political and civil rights we Americans enjoy everyday: the right to free speech and assembly, equality before the law and a government accountable to the people who elect it.”

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Wednesday, committee chair John Kerry and Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton echoed that sentiment.

“We have joined the Libyan people in demanding Gadhafi must go — now without further violence or bloodshed,” Clinton said.

This speaks to the broader point Clinton was getting at: promoting stronger foreign support in order to serve our strategic interests and protect the United States’ national security. Clinton notes, for example, that not supporting Afghanistan during the Cold War may have cost us in the long run by creating a less stable country.

But one avenue of that support Ackerman, Kerry and Clinton are calling for is coming under attack by the GOP: foreign aid spending. Last month, the House passed the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act which the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition says will cut the International Affairs Budget by 19 percent for fiscal year 2011.

“There is something about these cuts that does violence to the Judeo-Christian ethic so many people claim to uphold,” Kerry said last week.

Ackerman, for his part, voted against the cuts in the House. According to CQ, the congressman sees this time of upheaval as a chance to support Democracy in the region.

“There’s an opportunity here that we’ve never sensed,” Ackerman was quoted as saying. “This is a new generation of people. . . . They have dreams, and they’re looking to us to help them.”

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