WASHINGTON — It isn't a high-profile bill, but the Global Poverty Act has lit up the conservative blogosphere, and even Rush Limbaugh has gotten into the act.
Quietly approved by the House of Representatives last fall with bipartisan support, the bill, sponsored by Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., would require the president to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to help reduce extreme global poverty.
Conservative critics, including Limbaugh, Tony Perkins — who heads the Family Research Council — and others, claim that the measure would cost U.S. taxpayers $845 billion over the next dozen or so years. They also charge that it would tie the United States to the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which, among others things, calls for banning "small arms and light weapons" and ratifying the Kyoto global-warming treaty, the International Criminal Court Treaty and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
They've sought to tie the legislation to much broader goals promoted by the United Nations, including that nations spend 0.7 percent of their gross national product on eradicating poverty and providing other assistance to the world's poor.
Smith says there's no link and points out that there's no additional spending mandated in his bill.
He said the attacks weren't aimed at him but at Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, whom he recruited last year to be the bill's chief Senate sponsor. Smith is the chairman of the Obama campaign in Washington state.
Limbaugh, according to a transcript of his radio show, last week called the bill an effort to "soak U.S. taxpayers again to fund global, liberal feel-good garbage."
Smith said he wasn't surprised that his bill had come under attack.
"Anything can happen in the blogosphere," he said. He denies that his bill would have the dire consequences Limbaugh and others claim it would.
"It doesn't do any of those things," Smith said. But he said it was time for the United States to take an aggressive role in helping the 1 billion people worldwide who lived on less than $1 a day.
The dustup began last week when Cliff Kincaid, a columnist for Accuracy in Media (www.aim.org), a conservative news-media watchdog organization, dismissed the bill and linked it to an effort by Democrats to burnish Obama's legislative credentials. His original column was widely distributed on Web sites ranging from www.fishingbuddy.com to www.capitolhillcoffeehouse.com.
On Wednesday, Kincaid ratcheted up his criticism.
"This is how the Washington game of spending more of your money works," he wrote. "This is a budget buster that siphons your hard-earned tax dollars to the U.N. and the rest of the world."
Smith, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, first introduced the Global Poverty Act in 2005. He approached Obama about sponsoring it late last summer, before the Illinois senator's presidential campaign had taken off.
The bill requires the president to develop a plan to eliminate extreme global poverty and achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people living on less than $1 a day by 2015. The measure doesn't include a set funding amount.
The bill, which had 84 House sponsors, including a handful of Republicans, passed the House on a voice vote in September.
As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee prepared to consider the measure last week, Kincaid published his first column. Despite the conservative criticism, the committee approved the measure on a voice vote, and it's now headed to the Senate floor.
ON THE WEB
To see a copy of the bill and track its progress through Congress, go to http://thomas.loc.gov, enter the bill's title, Global Poverty Act of 2007, under "Search Bill Text" and click "SEARCH."