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Politics

An Emergent Vern Buchanan Pushes to Slow Foreign Aid

May 18, 2011 - 6:00pm

While U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for more of an American presence in the Middle East, namely in condemning human rights abuses in Syria and calling for more sanctions on that nation, a fellow Florida Republican increasingly wants less of it.

This past week, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, the only member of the Ways and Means Committee from the Sunshine State, has taken aim at foreign aid and called for the federal government to re-examine it.

Buchanan has left the door open for jumping into the increasingly crowded Republican primary field, looking to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012, though it is unlikely he will be a candidate. Nonetheless, Buchanan engaged in a rare national television appearance earlier in the month on Neil Cavutos Fox News show, where the congressman called for a serious reappraisal of every dollar the federal government sends out in foreign aid.

When President Barack Obama offered a new vision of American policy in the Middle East in a major speech Thursday, Buchanan continued that line of attack, arguing that the government should not be sending billions overseas to help develop democracies in the region.

The presidents decision to announce a major new foreign-aid plan just 72 hours after the United States reached a statutory debt ceiling displays a disturbing disconnect with the financial reality facing our nation, Buchanan said Thursday. We are broke. We need to put America first and stop trying to buy loyalty and friendship from countries that may not have our best interests in mind.

Instead of using our tax dollars to spur business investment in Tunisia, lets use the money to create jobs in America, he said.

Buchanan singled out more American taxpayer dollars going to Egypt -- which gets $1.5 billion annually already.

Giving Egypt $1 billion in debt relief when our own nation is on the road to bankruptcy makes absolutely no sense and just continues Washingtons reckless spending decisions of the past decade. Now more than ever, we should be focusing on policies that grow our own economy, create jobs, and reduce the massive federal deficit.

Despite his opposition to increasing foreign aid, it would be wrong to characterize Vern Buchanan as a member of the Buchanan Brigades -- the followers of Pat Buchanan (no relation) who helped propel his surprisingly strong bids for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 and 1996. Unlike the members of the Buchanan Brigades, the Florida congressman has been a backer of free trade and has urged the Obama administration to forward agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.

Its also wrong to link Buchanan to Republicans in Congress like Ron Paul of Texas, John Duncan of Tennessee and Walter Jones of North Carolina who have been critical of American military operations abroad. Buchanan was in favor of holding military tribunals for captured terrorists and has called on the Obama administration opt not to prosecute CIA operatives who have engaged in enhanced interrogation techniques or torture.

But Vern Buchanan is increasingly looking to prevent taxpayer dollars from being spent overseas and keeping them in America first. Even if the congressman does not enter the Senate race, with his perch on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Buchanan has a bit more pull than the average three-term congressman. It will be interesting to see if he continues this call in the months to come.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.
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