WASHINGTON — In 2015, the United States Senate will see some significant changes to its composition. The balance of power currently stands at 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and two Independents. Come January, those numbers will shift to 44 Democrats, 54 Republicans and two Independents.
So what will these changes mean for global poverty legislation? Some left-leaning voters might at first consider the shift worrisome. After all, many Democrats pride themselves on sponsoring the needy and fighting for the underdog. With the Democrats’ nine-seat loss in the 2014 midterm election, some may be lead to believe that global poverty fighters have been dealt a significant loss.
But this may not be the case. While statistics and voting records indicate that Democrats are slightly more likely than Republicans to vote for poverty reduction legislation, nearly every significant global poverty bill introduced in Congress in the past few years has been cosponsored or passed with substantial bipartisan support.
Bread for the World, a faith-based non-profit fighting to end hunger domestically and abroad, recently scored the current 113th Congress on legislation related to domestic and international efforts to curb hunger. Members’ votes were tracked for 10 bills and were scored based on how well their votes aligned with Bread for the World’s principles.
Senate Republicans’ votes aligned with Bread for the World an average of 20.5 percent of the time, while Senate Democrats’ votes aligned an average of 93.5 percent of the time.
However, the above statistic was partially derived from votes on controversial issues related to domestic poverty, including food stamp programs and minimum wage increases. These types of issues have traditionally divided the parties, and are not necessarily a reflection of either party’s commitment to initiatives related solely to global poverty.
Indeed, it is almost unusual for a global poverty bill introduced in either house of Congress not to have bipartisan support. The Borgen Project, a national not-profit dedicated to fighting extreme global poverty, cites 13 global poverty bills on its website that have been introduced in the House and Senate. Of those 13, 12 currently have bi-partisan co-sponsorship.
Global poverty initiatives are introduced through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. While the Senate committee will see some seat changes in the next legislative session, committee members in both houses and in both parties have shown substantial commitment to fighting global poverty.
– Katrina Beedy