March 18, 2015

International Affairs Budget Update, 3/18/15

House and Senate Budget Committees Release FY16 Budget Resolutions:
House Makes Deep Cuts, Senate Protects Base Funding

Congressional action on the FY16 budget began this week, with the release of House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price’s (R-GA) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi’s (R-WY) versions of the FY16 Budget Resolution.  The full committees began marking up the resolutions today, with the House expected to wrap up tonight and the Senate continuing tomorrow morning.

The House plan, released yesterday, adheres to the FY16 post-sequester Budget Control Act (BCA) discretionary spending cap of $1.017 trillion. It reduces federal spending by $5.5 trillion through FY25, and brings the budget into balance in FY24. The Senate plan, released today, also adheres to the BCA spending caps. It reduces federal spending by $5.1 trillion and balances the budget in FY25.

Unfortunately, the two chambers have different visions in prioritizing the International Affairs Budget.  On the more positive side, the Senate Budget Resolution largely maintains current funding levels for base International Affairs programs.  The proposal provides a total of $48.3 billion including $41.3 billion in base funding and $7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).  This represents a 1% decrease for base funding.  Because the resolution would cut OCO by 24%, however, this results in a 5% (-$2.5 billion) overall cut to current levels.

In contrast to the Senate, the House proposal would result in a 16% overall cut (-$8 billion) and a 7% cut to current base funding.  The plan provides a total of $42.9 billion for the International Affairs Budget, including $38.9 billion in base funding and $4 billion for (OCO).  To put this in perspective, under the House proposal, base International Affairs funding would decline by 22% compared to the enacted level from FY2010.

International Affairs Budget Snapshot

FY15 Enacted FY16 Admin Request FY16 House Resolution FY16 Senate Resolution
Base $41.6 billion $47.8 billion $38.9 billion $41.3 billion
OCO $9.3 billion $7.0 billion $4.0 billion $7.0 billion
Total $50.9 billion $54.8 billion $42.9 billion $48.3 billion

USGLC released a statement contrasting the chambers’ differing funding recommendations for the International Affairs Budget and highlighting the need for Congress to ensure sufficient resources to keep pace with growing threats and crises around the globe.

Next Steps

The House and Senate will debate their respective budget resolutions on the floor next week.  The House debate will also likely include several alternative budgets, including from the conservative Republican Study Committee, House Democrats, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  Last year, while all five alternative budgets were defeated by significant margins, the Republican Study Committee’s proposal, which contained the deepest cuts to discretionary spending of the proposed measures, garnered the support of 133 Members.

In the Senate, floor consideration of the Budget Resolution includes the introduction of hundreds of amendments because there are no limitations on the germaneness of amendments.  When these are brought to a vote, the rapid-fire succession of the amendment votes is referred to as a “vote-a-rama.”  In the last vote-a-rama in the Senate, in 2013, an amendment by Senator Paul to cut the International Affairs Budget by 33% received 26 votes.