WASHINGTON, D.C. — In March 2017, the Trump administration released a proposed budget which would have drastically cut foreign aid. A major opponent to this cut was Representative Ted Yoho of Florida’s third district. Rep. Yoho felt that cuts to aid would diminish the U.S. presence around the world, allowing other actors or ideals to fill the void that would be created. Instead, Rep. Yoho believes that investing in the foreign aid budget will allow for reforms to how the U.S. approaches foreign aid spending and implementation.
Representative Ted Yoho has had his own ideological shift on approaching foreign aid. As a fiscal conservative, Rep. Yoho campaigned in 2012 on cutting government spending, including reductions in foreign aid. After defeating an incumbent Congressman in the Republican primary and winning the general election by a near two to one margin, Rep. Yoho was poised to bring calls to cut foreign aid to Washington.
Upon his arrival to Congress, Rep. Yoho began serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It was through service on this committee that his views on foreign aid began to change.
In an article for The Hill in July 2016, Rep. Yoho acknowledged his service on the Foreign Affairs Committee as developing an appreciation for the good that can come from well-administered aid programs. Additionally, in an interview with Devex, Rep. Yoho explained how his professional work as a veterinarian had informed his position change on foreign aid.
“When foreign assistance has a clear mission, buy-in from the aid-recipient country, and explicit metrics for implementation, the United States will be able to transition aid-recipient nations into strong trading partners,” he said.
Rep. Yoho explained that he practiced preventative medicine much more often than treating an illness. In diagnosing foreign aid spending, Rep. Yoho sees how things like corruption, lack of infrastructure or weak rule of law are symptoms that can be treated rather than completely cutting off the foreign aid budget.
Rep. Yoho’s focus is no longer on cutting foreign aid, but rather on the effective implementation of aid programs that can help develop aid recipients into trade partners. Rep. Yoho often refers to South Korea as an example of this use of foreign aid. After the Korean War, the U.S. invested heavily in South Korea, and 65 years later the country is the ninth-largest U.S. trading partner.
On May 25, 2017, Representative Ted Yoho introduced the Economic Growth and Development Act into the House of Representatives. This bill seeks to create a primary interagency mechanism which would coordinate U.S. development assistance programs, connect private sector and federal entities and provide oversight for aid distribution around the world. With bicameral and bipartisan support, this bill represents a congressional and U.S. shift mirroring Rep. Yoho’s own shift to supporting reform rather than funding cuts.
– Erik Beck