January 24, 2011

International Affairs Budge Update, 1-24-11

1.     Congress Finalizing Committee Assignments
2.     Budget Outlook for February and March
3.     USAID Administrator Highlights Reforms

1.     Congress Finalizing Committee Assignments

The House has nearly completed committee assignments with significant changes due to the change in party control and the large number of freshmen members.  Of particular note, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has ten freshmen members, including eight GOP freshmen.

With a longer recess this January, the Senate has yet to formally announce committee changes for the new Congress, though some details have been leaked. It remains to be seen just how the minority side of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations will shake out, as the subcommittee lost all but one–Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)–of its members due to retirements and losses last fall.

As soon as the committee assignments are final, the USGLC will have the lists available on its website.  In the meantime, you can visit the committee websites by clicking on the links below. Here is the leadership of key House and Senate committees related to the International Affairs Budget:

House Foreign Affairs Committee
Chairwoman: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Ranking Member: Howard Berman (D-CA)
Freshmen: Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Tim Griffin (R-AR), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Bill Keating (D-MA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Tom Marino (R-PA), David Rivera (R-FL)

House Budget Committee
Chairman: Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Ranking Member: Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Freshmen: TBA

House Appropriations Committee
Chairman: Harold Rogers (R-KY)
Ranking Member: Norm Dicks (D-WA)
Freshmen: Alan Nunnelee (R-MS), Steve Womack (R-AR), Kevin Yoder (R-KS)

House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations
Chairwoman: Kay Granger (R-TX)
Ranking Member: Nita Lowey (D-NY)

House Armed Services Committee
Chairman: Buck McKeon (R-CA)
Ranking Member: Adam Smith (D-WA)
Freshmen: Mo Brooks (R-AL), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Tim Griffin (R-AR), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), Joe Heck (R-NV), Steve Palazzo (R-MS), Scott Rigell (R-VA), Martha Roby (R-AL), Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Bobby Schilling (R-IL), Austin Scott (R-GA), Allen West (R-FL), Todd Young (R-IN)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Chairwoman: John Kerry (D-MA)
Ranking Member: Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Freshmen: Chris Coons (D-DE)

Senate Budget Committee
Chairman: Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Ranking Member: Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

Senate Appropriations Committee
Chairman: Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Ranking Member: Thad Cochran (R-MS)

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations
Chairwoman: Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Ranking Member: TBA

Senate Armed Services Committee
Chairman: Carl Levin (D-MI)
Ranking Member: John McCain (R-AZ)
Freshmen: Chris Coons (D-DE), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Joe Manchin (D-WV)

2.     Budget Outlook for February and March

February and March will be the scene of intense political debate between President Obama and House Republicans over federal spending levels. The debate between House Republicans and the Democratically-controlled Senate also will be critical in determining the final outcomes.

Debate Begins with FY2011 Spending

With the current continuing resolution expiring on March 4, the House approved a rules package which allows House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to submit a budget resolution for the rest of FY11 without a vote in committee or on the House floor. Ryan wants to reduce spending levels to FY08 levels, which would result in $100 billion of savings relative to the President’s FY11 request. Reducing the International Affairs Budget to FY08 base levels would result in a devastating 35% reduction to these programs. The House will vote on a symbolic resolution supporting Ryan’s spending reduction plan for the rest of FY11 several hours before the State of the Union Address tomorrow.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) has instructed his newly-announced subcommittees to begin marking up appropriations bills for FY11 under the assumption that federal spending would be returning to FY08 levels or less. Republican spending proposals do not consider the International Affairs Budget as part of “national security spending,” as the Bush and Obama Administrations have done since 2007. Not counting the International Affairs Budget with the Defense Department, Military Construction and Veteran’s Affairs budgets leaves it more exposed to deep cuts.

At the same time, the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a conservative group of House Republicans, announced on Thursday legislation, the Spending Reduction Act of 2011, which proposes a large number of specific cuts needed to reduce discretionary spending to FY08 levels as promised in the GOP’s “Pledge to America,” and to FY2006 levels in subsequent years. The RSC also released a two-page summary detailing some of the savings, including an 84% cut to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and eliminating the U.S. Trade Development Agency (USTDA), as well as paring back many other important international affairs programs. The RSC measure is expected to receive a vote on the House floor within the coming weeks.

While the Republican-controlled House will be able to pass measures that dramatically cut spending, those cuts will likely be challenged by Senate Democrats and President Obama.

Four Key Dates to Watch

Here are four key dates to watch as the budget battles take shape.

  • January 25 — State of the Union Address. President Obama’s State of the Union address will likely set the tone for the Administration’s budgetary initiatives for the coming year. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan will give the official response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.
  • Week of February 14 — Release of the President’s FY12 Budget Request. The President will present the details of his Administration’s FY2012 Budget request.  The Budget rollout will include testimony by OMB Director Jack Lew and other cabinet officials on Capitol Hill.
  • March 4 — FY11 Continuing Resolution Expires. The FY11 current Continuing Resolution, which funds the International Affairs Budget at $52.9 billion, will expire on March 4th. With the House’s vote tomorrow on the symbolic resolution supporting Ryan’s budget resolution, it remains to be seen how exactly the Senate will respond and plans to deal with FY11 appropriations.  Expect another Continuing Resolution.
  • Late March/Early April — Raising the Debt Ceiling. The federal government is likely to reach its statutory limit on public debt as soon as late March, necessitating approval by Congress of an increase in the debt limit in order to avoid default on existing debt. This will be a difficult vote for many Members of Congress, particularly newly elected freshmen, and House Republicans plan to use their leverage on this vote to extract concessions from Democrats on spending levels.

3.     USAID Administrator Highlights Reforms

As Congress prepares for the Administration’s release of the FY12 budget, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has been working to show that USAID has already begun to implement changes in how the United States conducts global development. “I want the American taxpayer to know that every dollar they invest in USAID is being invested in the smartest, most efficient, and most transparent way possible,” Administrator Shah said in a major address this week highlighting reforms underway at USAID.

“Our Agency is fundamentally changing, becoming more efficient, more effective and more business-like, freeing our talented staff to deliver real results,” he said. Central to these reforms is USAID Forward, a series of initiatives that seek to increase transparency and accountability. Administrator Shah also outlined new measures to ensure there is adequate oversight over U.S. government projects and that the funds are spent efficiently.

Administrator Shah called for the resources needed for success: “Now is the time to invest in USAID’s capabilities, so we see the day when our assistance is no longer necessary.” He summed up his hope that these reforms will demonstrate to the new Congress that “our assistance is not just from the American people, it’s also for the American people.”