November 15, 2011

International Affairs Budget Update, 11-15-11

Late this afternoon Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was unable to secure an agreement to proceed with Senate consideration of the second FY12 minibus spending bill, which was to include the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (S. 1601).  There is still a chance that a resolution to this impasse could be reached, but the consensus among Democratic and Republican congressional staff is that this is not likely.  However, because the situation is so in flux, we need to remain on alert in the event that an agreement to proceed is reached.

Several factors are contributing to the impasse and shift in the Senate floor schedule, including objections to the unanimous consent agreement to proceed to debate on the bill from Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), who oppose a provision in the Financial Services bill related to Cuba, and objections from some Republicans, including David Vitter (R-LA), to abortion-related provisions in the State-Foreign Operations bill.  The likelihood of dozens of controversial and time-consuming amendments being offered to the State-Foreign Operations and Financial Services portions of the measure and other competing legislative priorities before the Thanksgiving recess also are factors.

For the remainder of the week, it appears the Senate will continue consideration of the Energy & Water Appropriations bill as a stand-alone bill, the Defense Authorization bill, and the conference report on the first minibus package that also includes a second Continuing Resolution lasting until mid-December. (See the item below for the final FY12 spending levels on international food aid).

Yesterday, voices urging Senators to oppose further cuts to America’s development and diplomacy programs got a powerful boost in a letter from five former Secretaries of State.  In the letter to Members of Congress, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger raise their concerns about cuts to the International Affairs Budget, warning that “now is not the time for America to retreat from the world.”

Final FY12 Levels Approved for International Food Aid

The final agreement on FY12 spending levels for the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-HUD Appropriations bills, which comprised the first minibus package, was reached over the weekend.  The House last night filed the conference report for the measure, which provides a total of $1.65 billion for international food aid programs – $1.466 billion for Food for Peace/P.L. 480 and $184 million for McGovern-Dole Food for Education – representing a 3% cut from FY11 levels but a significant improvement over the 28% cut approved by the House this summer.