Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tells Newsmax that U.S. foreign aid “is not a welfare program” and should not go to corrupt regimes that do not advance American interests.
The Florida Republican also says that American aid to the Palestinian Authority should be cut if it remains linked to the terrorist organization Hamas.
Ros-Lehtinen was first elected in 1988 and is the senior woman Republican in the House.
She is moving forward with a bill to strip $6.5 billion in aid to the Palestinian Authority, Pakistan, and several other countries unless they can prove there are no members of terrorist groups or terrorist sympathizers in their government.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, she declares: “U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be going to terrorist organizations or to governments that have in them members of terrorist organizations and are not advancing the causes of freedom and liberty and American interests throughout the world.
“This is not a welfare program. Some of these countries have come to rely in the United States as a sugar daddy, and it doesn’t matter how corrupt these government may be or how anti-American they might have been or how infiltrated they are with terrorist elements.
“For a long time in successive administrations, Republican and Democratic administrations, the feeling was: Let’s keep the person in power now even though that leader is not the best leader, is not a democratic leader, is not a clean leader, does not advance U.S. interests. But at least he is better than what might be behind him, better than an abyss, better than a question mark.
“Well, he may or may not be better than an abyss, but that doesn’t mean that we the taxpayers should be funding him.”
Brushing aside criticism of her bill to strip foreign aid from some nations, Ros-Lehtinen says: “I don’t think that’s imposing our values on other countries. It is U.S. taxpayer dollars. They have the right, these foreign leaders and foreign governments, to not accept U.S. dollars. But if they choose to accept U.S. security assistance then they have to meet certain thresholds.”
She also disagrees with colleagues who say Pakistan has not been an American ally.
“They have not cooperated as they should. But as imperfect an ally as they have been, I prefer to [continue assistance and] put strict conditions on U.S. aid.
“Some of my colleagues say no aid whatsoever. I think it behooves us to have a sharing of intelligence with Pakistan. We’ve been able to operate in Pakistan, sometimes with the government of Pakistan, sometimes without their assistance — for example, the operation against bin Laden.
“Was Pakistan helpful? Certainly not. And that what’s brought this whole U.S. relationship with the outside world to the forefront of our agenda.
“Are [the Pakistanis] cooperating or not? The proof has to be shown to us, and if we are not satisfied with the proof they will not get the security assistance they need.
“The check is not in the mail. It is not business as usual. It is a whole new world and they have shown what they are up to with this bin Laden raid, and we’re just flat-out not going to put up with it. The American people are fed up.”
Ros-Lehtinen is outraged that American money is going to a Palestinian Authority that “will soon be wedded to Hamas, an official terrorist organization. It is very clear that they should not join forces because even if they get U.N. recognition, which is their goal, we will consider them to be a terrorist organization and they will not get U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.
“We‘ve got to be very judicious with our use of taxpayer dollars. People are broke. You’ve got to ask yourself, are we willing to go into further debt in order to finance these regimes? Are we willing to borrow money from the communist Chinese? Is it worth it for your children and your grandchildren and our own generation to go into debt in order to help the Palestinian Authority that’s corrupt and aligned with Hamas, the Lebanese government that’s a puppet of Hezbollah and ruled by Syria, Pakistan that’s in bed with some of these fringe elements?
“We’ve got to be a careful steward of the taxpayers’ dollars, and it’s no longer business as usual. We’re going to be careful and judicious in the way we use our residents’ tax dollars.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has threatened to push for a White House veto of Ros-Lehtinen’s foreign aid bill, claiming it would hurt her foreign policy efforts.
Ros-Lehtinen comments: “I’m glad that the Obama administration has put out a veto threat, because it shows the difference between the American people and the Obama administration.
“The president thinks we can buy foreign love, and we can’t.”