Capping off months of tense negotiations between the White House and Congressional leaders – including a standoff over border security funding that resulted in a historic 35-day partial government shutdown – Congress passed a compromise spending package for FY19 that will keep the government open through September 30, 2019.
Reflecting the strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for America’s global engagement, the FY19 International Affairs Budget is funded at $56.1 billion – a slight increase of $193 million (0.3%) compared to FY18.
After several failed votes in the Senate yesterday to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 35th day, Congress and the White House today reached a short-term deal to reopen the government for three weeks while negotiations over border wall funding continue. The Senate quickly approved the short-term Continuing Resolution (CR), which would restore funding at current levels through February 15 and allow federal employees – including the workforce of our civilian international affairs agencies – to go back to work. The House is expected to follow suit later today. It remains to be seen whether this temporary reprieve will result in a long-term solution to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. The USGLC is monitoring the situation closely and will send updates as appropriate.
Also, in recent days, both the House and Senate released the text of six appropriations bills that reflect bipartisan agreements reached late last year to finalize FY19 spending. While these bills are unlikely to become law until a long-term deal is struck on the border wall issue, they could become part of a broader agreement to finalize FY19 spending once and for all.
When it comes to the FY19 International Affairs Budget, the agreement struck by Congressional negotiators not only rejects the deep and disproportionate cuts proposed by the Administration, but also slightly increases funding by $193 million (0.3%) compared to current levels. Specifically, the International Affairs Budget receives a total of $56.1 billion, split between $48.1 billion in base and $8 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.
With House lawmakers heading home for the midterms, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution this week that extends government funding until after the November elections. The CR – which was attached to the Defense and Labor/Health and Human Services/Education appropriations “minibus” – funds the International Affairs Budget at FY18 enacted levels through December 7. This week Congress also took action on bipartisan legislation, including the BUILD Act, to strengthen America’s foreign assistance programs.
The Administration is readying a proposal to rescind or cancel up to several billion dollars in congressionally approved funding for America’s development and diplomacy programs. Such an effort – targeting no more than 0.07% of the federal budget – is widely seen as a political move to draw down overseas resources leading up to the midterm election. The Administration’s proposal could be sent to Capitol Hill as soon as next week – just one month before the end of the fiscal year – though we understand legal, legislative, and political concerns may mean the Administration presses pause on the effort.
In February 2018, the USGLC released an analysis on the Administration’s “Groundhog Budget”, which for the second year in a row proposed to dangerously slash the International Affairs Budget. Fast forward to June—just a few months into the appropriations process on Capitol Hill—and a much brighter picture has emerged thanks to the strong bipartisan support for development and diplomacy programs among Members of Congress.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved topline funding levels (known as 302(b) allocations) that help ensure our nation’s civilian tools can deliver results for
the American people. The Senate approved a modest increase (0.7%) for the total FY19 International Affairs Budget compared to current levels. Funding in the House is down just slightly (0.4%), largely due to a cut to Food for Peace (PL 480, Title II).
In addition to USGLC’s State Leaders Summit, Capitol Hill was abuzz this week with activity related to the International Affairs Budget. Action included both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees advancing their FY19 State-Foreign Operations bills, the introduction of a House FY19 Budget Resolution that would cut the International Affairs Budget by 7%, the Senate’s rejection of the Administration’s proposal to rescind billions of dollars in prior-year spending, and movement on the reform agenda – including Senate passage of the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act and the release of the Administration’s plan to reorganize the government.
USGLC’s President and CEO Liz Schrayer and Government Relations Director Lindsay Plack sent a letter to Congressional and Appropriations Leadership on the Administration’s proposed rescissions package, which included funding for the Millennium Challenge Corporation and Complex Crises Fund.
This week, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved topline spending levels, or 302(b) allocations, for FY19 – including for the State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) bills, which fund the vast majority of the International Affairs Budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved its FY19 Agriculture spending and the Administration’s rescissions package appears to be stalled in the House.
This week the Administration released a proposal to rescind $15.4 billion in prior-year unobligated funds, starting a process last used almost 20 years ago to cancel Congressional appropriations pursuant to the Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Prior to the proposal’s release, it was reported that the International Affairs Budget could be disproportionately targeted. Instead, the proposal includes $334 million in rescissions to the International Affairs Budget, roughly 2% of the overall package.