SEATTLE, Washington — In the first days of 2021, the Global South received some good news – after four years of reduced humanitarian aid from the U.S., the incoming Senatorial class would tip Congress in favor of the Democratic Party, which has historically prioritized improving living conditions in developing countries more than their Republican counterparts. The winners of the Senate runoff races, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, are likely to bring the votes necessary to pass crucial legislation. This legislation could include efforts to increase United States foreign aid in developing countries and promote human rights worldwide. Such spending would mark a contrast from the more isolationist policies that their precursors promoted.
The Trump Administration’s Decline in Foreign Aid
To understand the value of a Democratic Congress in the fight against global poverty, it is important to understand the effect of the last four years of a Republican presidency and control of the Senate. For example, the amount the United States spent on funding foreign aid decreased by roughly $1.5 billion in 2017 after the Trump administration came into power and relaxed pressure for increased foreign aid policy on Congress.
In general, Republicans are more likely to support isolationist policies. These policies include the idea that the U.S. spends too much money on foreign aid and fighting human rights injustices. According to Pew Research Center, just 12% of Republicans believe that U.S. foreign policy should prioritize improving living conditions for the world’s poor. This is quite sparse in comparison to the 32% of Democrats in support. What this means in Congress is that a Republican-controlled Senate is less likely to move to pass poverty-reduction legislation. With Ossoff and Warnock tipping the Senate towards the left, progressive foreign aid policy stands a better chance of passage.
Ossoff’s History with Foreign Aid
Senator Jon Ossoff is more than just another Democratic vote. As an investigative journalist for Insight TWI, Ossoff examined the successes and failures of United States foreign aid, often reporting on the difficulty of implementing effective aid programs in countries plagued with corruption. This experience, combined with his criticism of U.S. involvement in the Iraq War, indicates a willingness to expand and optimize government spending on foreign aid.
Prioritizing Foreign Aid
With the Democratic Senate runoff victories accompanying the election of President Joe Biden, there is an immense opportunity for the implementation of large-scale foreign assistance programs. Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has said that he plans to “bring aid back to the center of our foreign policy.” If Blinken’s stance on aid and Biden’s quick moves to bring the U.S. back into global agreements such as the Paris Climate Accords are any indication, the new administration will likely put a priority on increasing foreign aid and protecting human rights in conjunction with an initiative to put the U.S. back into a position as a global leader.
Many of the Biden administration’s more ambitious foreign policy objectives will require congressional approval. Now, they can reasonably count upon their passage. Developing countries can count on the United States to be ready to help and cooperate internationally in the fight to end poverty.
– Kieran Hadley