House Panel Limits Growth of Democracy-Building Fund

Rebuffing President Bush's wishes, a Republican-led House panel slashed the administration's request for a program that aids global development.

Under the Millennium Challenge Account (search), countries are eligible for extra aid only if they control corruption, invest in health and education and encourage trade and private investment.

In 2002, Bush called for "a new compact for global development, defined by new accountability for both rich and poor nations alike. Greater contributions from developed nations must be linked to greater responsibility from developing nations."

He requested $3 billion in the fiscal 2006 budget, but the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee on Thursday recommended $1.75 billion, which is $262 million more than last year.

Overall, lawmakers are proposing only a tiny increase in U.S. foreign aid in the coming budget year, rejecting an 11 percent jump requested by Bush.

Decrying what they said were difficult choices needed to keep overall spending down, members of a House Appropriations subcommittee Thursday approved and sent to the full panel a bill for $20.27 billion that included health, education, counter-narcotics and military aid to poor nations.

It is only $730 million above the $19.54 appropriated in fiscal year 2005 and slashed more than $2 billion from Bush's request of $22.82 billion.

Democrats lamented the relatively small amount to be allotted for aid programs compared to the estimated $350 billion military budget being considered -- a figure that doesn't include emergency funds for the continuing wars.

"It always amazes me that people are willing to shove huge amounts of money out the door" to pay for wars, "but are often unwilling to provide tiny amounts to prevent them," said Rep. David Obey (search), D-Wis.