On July 20th, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held the markup of the spending bill introduced by chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), “Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2012.” The committee kicked off the markup by voting to completely defund the United States’ contribution to the Organization of the American States (OAS). A full video of the markup is available here. You can also listen to the audio of the debate on the OAS here.
Although the bill will certainly die in the Democrat-controlled Senate, the hostile, highly partisan nature of the debate revealed exactly how divided Republicans and Democrats have become on Latin American issues. At one point there was a lengthy disagreement between representatives from the two parties over whether or not Cuba is a member of the OAS (it is not, although the organization lifted a 47-year-old suspension of the country’s membership in 2009). The amendment passed 22-20 along party lines.
Below is a selection from the testimony of various representatives from the debate:
David Rivera (R-FL)
“It kind of reminds me of that scene in Animal House where the college pledges, pledging the fraternity, as part of the ceremony to become a member of the fraternity you have to get paddled, and every time he gets paddled he says, ‘Please, sir, may I have another.'”
“How much longer are we going to say to the OAS, ‘Please, sir, may I have another?’ I understand a little bit about Stockholm Syndrome, where the hostage becomes enamored with their persecutor. And I don’t know if that’s going on with this administration or some who support involvement in the OAS, but maybe it is.”
“The OAS is an enemy of the U.S. and an enemy to the interests of freedom and security.”
Connie Mack (R-FL and Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere)
“[The U.S. funding of the OAS] sends the message that if you want to belong to the ALBAS nations, the OAS is a good place to come move your agenda. To my side of the aisle, I say that there hasn’t been an example of the OAS supporting freedom and democracy.”
“In effect what you’re doing is hurting the people of Latin America by continuing to support the OAS…There is a better way to support Latin America, and that is…to pass free trade agreements.”
“I remind my friend that it was the OAS who was helping [ousted Honduran Presiden] Zelaya, who by the way was instigating the real coup in Honduras by trying to take over that country and trying to take away the right of its citizens to elect a president.
“Let’s not continue to fund an organization that’s bent on destroying democracy in Latin America.”
Howard Burman (D-CA)
“The notion that we are going to defund the OAS, undermine the organization’s ability to maintain rank and file staff critical to advancing its important work, key areas such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, decrease our moral and political standing in the region…I can’t think of anything Hugo Chavez would want more.”
“I believe [a cap on OAS funding] will only strengthen the hand of Hugo Chavez.”
Gary Ackerman (D-NY)
“I might offer an amendment to pull out of the world, to putting all this money into building a moat around the United States and put a dome over the thing. This is getting ridiculous.”
“We are competing on this planet for the hearts and minds of people on behalf of the values you claim we represent… They look to us for leadership and inspiration, yet here we are, for a lousy 48 million dollars, willing to turn our back on our own hemisphere…This is more than folly. It’s dangerous. We are on the precipice of leaving this planet.”
Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
“The fact that any multilateral organization doesn’t bend to our will is to be expected! That’s why we roll up our sleeves and participate in the arena. This amendment is nothing but a retreat from our international responsibilities as a great power. And on false pretenses as well!”
This blog was written by Claire O’Neill McCleskey