February 8, 2021
After a flurry of activity, last Friday Congress approved an FY21 Budget Resolution that lays the groundwork for Congress to pass a new emergency COVID relief package using budget reconciliation, which only requires a 51-vote majority in the Senate.
Before approving its version of the budget resolution by a slim 51-50 margin with Vice President Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, the Senate considered a host of amendments during a marathon 15-hour “vote-a-rama.” While several amendments were filed with implications for the International Affairs Budget, only one received a vote.
The amendment, offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), would have cut $26 billion from the FY21 International Affairs Budget to go to transportation and infrastructure programs and made similar cuts for the next 10 years. If approved, the amendment would have cut the International Affairs Budget nearly in half at a time when American and the world are facing a global pandemic. The Paul amendment was overwhelmingly defeated in a strong bipartisan 8-92 vote – the largest margin of all votes taken.
The FY21 Budget Resolution includes reconciliation instructions directing congressional committees to draft COVID-19 relief legislation in line with President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Importantly, the reconciliation instructions include $10 billion in International Affairs Budget resources for the global COVID-19 response. This would build on the $5.3 billion in emergency international affairs funds included in the final FY21 spending package.
The relevant congressional committees now have until February 16th to draft their components of the COVID-19 relief package – including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee responsible for outlining how the $10 billion in international affairs resources will be spent. The House is preparing to consider legislation before the month’s end, with the Senate soon thereafter.
The USGLC released a statement highlighting the importance of the $10 billion for the global response in the FY21 Budget Resolution, while also noting “there is more work to do to secure $20 billion in emergency resources currently needed for the international response.”