Congress Passes “CR-Minibus,” BUILD Act on Verge of Becoming Law

1. Congress Passes “CR-Minibus,” Extending International Affairs Funding Into Lame Duck

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. The President is expected to sign the bill today.

For the first time in over twenty years, Congress has now passed five of its twelve FY19 spending bills before the end of the fiscal year. Seven spending bills remain that will need to be negotiated during the lame duck. This includes the State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) bill, which funds the lion’s share of the International Affairs Budget.

Looking to the lame duck, issues such as funding for the border wall and other Administration and Congressional priorities will likely dominate negotiations over the seven remaining funding bills. It will be critical that as Congress finalizes these bills, the SFOPS topline – and therefore the International Affairs Budget topline – is not disproportionately cut to pay for other priorities, including a border wall.

2. BUILD Act on the Verge of Becoming Law

This week Congress also took action on bipartisan legislation to strengthen America’s foreign assistance programs. On Wednesday, the House passed the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act (H.R. 5105/S. 2463), led by Reps. Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Adam Smith (D-WA) and Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE), as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. The Senate is expected to vote on the package in the coming days and weeks, resulting in final passage of the BUILD Act.

As noted previously, the BUILD Act would streamline America’s development finance tools into a single, full-service international development finance institution. USGLC President and CEO Liz Schrayer has praised the bill, stating, “A new and robust development finance institution will enable our nation’s businesses to be much more competitive in some of today’s fastest growing markets around the world while working to fight global poverty.”

Several other bills saw action in Congress this week, including:

  • PEPFAR Extension Act (H.R. 6651/S. 3476). Led by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) in the House, the bill would extend PEPFAR’s mandate to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria globally through 2024. The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the bill on September 27. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved its version of the bill, led by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the previous day.
  • Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act (H.R. 5273/S. 3368). Led by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ted Poe (R-TX)Michael McCaul (R-TX), and others in the House, the legislation would establish a strategy and inter-agency initiative to reduce and address the causes of violence in fragile states. The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the bill on September 27. In August, the Senate introduced its version of this bill, led by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
  • Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (H.R. 6888/S. 2736). Led by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Ed Markey (D-MA) in the Senate, the bill would develop a long-term strategic and comprehensive U.S. policy for the Indo-Pacific region. Introduced in April, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the legislation on September 26. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced a House version of the bill on September 25.
  • Digital GAP Act (H.R. 600). Led by Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Eliot Engel (D-NY), the bill would promote internet access in developing countries. The House passed the bill back in January of last year and it was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week on September 26.
  • Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership Act (H.R. 6018). Led by Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Bill Keating (D-MA), the bill would authorize an inter-agency program to help coordinate U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel. The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the bill on September 27.