Shedding a tear for Santorum

Some newly departed Republican legislators were strong proponents of foreign aid

Published November 14, 2006 4:08PM (EST)

For many Democrats, one of the most savored results of the 2006 midterm elections was the ouster of Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a hard-line social conservative. Knocking out Mike DeWine, the Republican senator from Ohio, also provided moments of glee, given Ohio's critical role in the 2004 election. The retirement of Illinois Rep. Henry Hyde, notorious among Democrats for leading the attempt to impeach President Clinton, was a little less satisfactory, even if much appreciated, since he left of his own will and was replaced by another Republican.

But for one organization that at first glance one would suspect of overwhelming liberal sympathies, the departure of the Republican trio was far from unalloyed good news.

InterAction bills itself as "the largest alliance of U.S.-based international development and humanitarian nongovernmental organizations" working "to overcome poverty, exclusion and suffering by advancing social justice and basic dignity for all." But for InterAction, the Democratic takeover leads only to "cautious optimism." In "2006 Election Analysis: First Cut," a report sent to InterAction members, the organization notes that while "there is a temptation to assume that Democrats are more internationalist and therefore more willing to invest in humanitarian and development work overseas, and based on that assumption to celebrate the Democratic ascendance to power ... a number of key champions for investing in the world's poor were on the Republican side and have now been lost to retirement or defeat at the polls."

Henry Hyde is describes as a "strong ally for our community" and DeWine as a "key champion." Rick Santorum also comes in for favorable mention. A cursory Google search indicates that all three worked hard to ensure increased funding for significant foreign aid programs.

Will their replacements be less internationalist? In the realm of trade policy, a significant number of Democrats compaigned on an American-workers-first platform, which has led to much consternation on the part of economists who are worried at the rise of a new isolationism. But there's a big difference between the desire to rejigger trade policy and a dispensation to cut foreign aid. Put it on the list as yet another item to watch as the new leadership establishes a legislative record.

One ironic note: There's a possibility that a Democratic-run Congress may finally instill some fiscal discipline on the profligate Bush administration. If spending is brought into line with revenue, that may mean budget cuts that tighten the aid spigot.

UPDATE: In related news, the Center for Global Development focuses on what the election results mean for aid to Africa, linking to a CGD paper that concluded that since 1961, aid to Africa is highest when one party controls the presidency and at least one chamber of Congress, and lowest when one party controls both chambers and the other party controls the presidency. The implication: Africans may have reason to be nervous about the Democratic takeover of Congress.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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2006 Elections Globalization How The World Works