Published April 01, 2011
A top House Republican offered delayed outrage to President Obama's point man on U.S. development and humanitarian missions, who testified before Congress this week that a budget plan House Republicans passed last month would lead to 70,000 kids dying.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah told the House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee on Wednesday that the budget plan, which would cut $61 billion in federal spending, would lead to the deaths of 30,000 kids in a malaria control program that would have to be scaled back, 24,000 from a lack of immunizations and 16,000 from a lack of skilled attendants at birth.
"There's a way to do this that does not have to cost lives and we're very focused and very much want to work with the committee to identify a path forward that can allow us to be effective at doing so," he said. Shah is seeking $59.5 billion in funding for his agency, up 22 percent, or $10.7 billion, from the current level.
None of the Republicans, who control the committee, challenged what Shah called a "conservative estimate." The subject quickly changed to agricultural production in Afghanistan and food security in Guatemala.
But subcommittee member Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., sent a statement to FoxNews.com Thursday saying, "Nearly every administration witness appearing before the Appropriations Committee has put forward nightmare scenarios and dire numbers to argue why we should not be reducing spending in any program.
"Republicans won't be drawn into a debate over what might happen based on speculation and hype," he said. "We understand that if we don't rein in these trillion-dollar-plus deficits, programs like this one may have to be eliminated entirely in the near future."
Lewis noted that the GOP plan reduced the overall USAID account but left it entirely up to the administration on how to find the savings.
"I have faith that the administration will find a way to reduce spending without leading to the deaths of children," he said.
Shah's comments contained echoes of former Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson's explosive charge two years ago that the Republicans' idea of health care was wanting sick people to "die quickly." Grayson lost his Florida seat in November's midterm elections.
President Obama and Senate Democrats, who want to cut significantly less federal spending, have argued that the House GOP budget plan to cut $61 billion will force a government shutdown in one week if the two sides can't reach a compromise.
Republicans have also offered their share of frightening futuristic scenarios should its $61 billion in proposed cuts -- or 3.7 percent of the year's projected $1.6 trillion deficit -- not pass Congress, including questioning whether military members will be left on the battlefield without pay or the country will default like Greece.
Shah isn't the first Democrat to ratchet up the rhetoric in a budget battle. Some have suggested that all manner of health and safety issues, including tsunami warning centers and foster care programs, will go unmanned.
Earlier this month, Vice President Biden likened the GOP budget plan to rape victims being blamed for rape.
"It's amazing how these Republicans, the right wing of this party -- whose philosophy threw us into this godawful hole we're in, gave us the tremendous deficit we've inherited -- that they're now using the very economic condition they have created to blame the victim -- whether it's organized labor or ordinary middle-class working men and women," he told a lavish Philadelphia fundraising luncheon that raised $400,000 for Democratic congressional campaigns.