All I Want for the Holidays


Last week I promised a post on UNFPA, the U.S. and China but I have to put it off for a week in favor of a more timely issue: the debate on the omnibus spending bill and one of the many the larger implications.

I call this post, "All I Want for the Holidays a Good President."

I'm more than a little bothered that this is all I want. No matter what the framers intended, we now follow a system of government that is heavily weighed toward the executive branch. The recent wrangling over the budget is just one of the many examples. The fact that the party in the majority in both the House and Senate acquiesced to most of the President's budget demands in order to avoid a veto is appalling in our system of government.

The will of the majority of both Houses of Congress doesn't get you much these days absent a veto-proof majority in Congress – which seems like something as difficult to achieve as economizing cold fusion at this point. So more than ever we need a President who understands the importance of global women's health or one that is willing to be educated.

I wish support for UNFPA could be accomplished through the legislative branch, no matter what the policy emanating from the White House is, because Congress tends to reflect the will of the people on this – which is clearly support for the world's women. But only to a point. As we've seen this week, when this President says no to women, members of Congress mostly shrug.

The omnibus bill allocates $40 million to UNFPA (a $6 million increase over recent years) and requires that, if the President defunds UNFPA as he has done for the last five years in a row, that he articulate his reasons in writing. Last spring, when the President threatened to veto the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, this requirement was the first stipulation he listed as justification for his veto. (Crazy, I know, asking the President to explain to the American people why he makes these decisions.) So, funding for UNFPA is currently in the bill but it's a tempered victory since this President is not likely to release the funds and, it's doubtful that Congress will make much of a stink about it.

I'm not going so far as to say that the makeup of Congress is not important. However, if the next President allows global women's health to be reduced to mere politics, we'll be in for this same funding battle for 4-8 more years. But, if the next President understands global women' health to be the best hope for an end to extreme poverty and a more stable world for all of us – economically and environmentally – then maybe we can have some real leadership about the U.S. role in such a global effort.

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