November 25, 2014
As previously reported, there are several scenarios for how FY15 appropriations will be handled before Congress adjourns. These options include:
(1) Omnibus: combine all 12 appropriations bills into one measure;
(2) Short-term CR: pass another CR until Feb/March 2015; and
(3) Long-term CR: pass a year-long CR.
Appropriators and leadership in both chambers are anxious to resolve FY15 appropriations matters in the lame duck so as not to muddy their agenda for early next year, and a catch-all omnibus measure is the primary option for doing so. However, an omnibus is running into increasing resistance from many conservative Republicans – especially in the wake of the President’s announcement last week of his executive order on immigration – who want to use the leverage of the appropriations process to push back on the executive order. As a result, negotiations are underway on a compromise approach.
Indications are that Congress is most likely to take up a hybrid package of an omnibus and a CR, funding immigration-related agencies through a short-term CR that will last until February or March 2015 and funding the remainder of the government – including International Affairs programs – through an omnibus measure. Both chambers would take up that measure the week of December 8th.
Impact on International Affairs Funding
As reported previously, a key issue and area of concern for International Affairs programs is the large difference in base funding between the House and Senate versions of the State-Foreign Operations bills. While both chamber’s bills are nearly identical on the total spending level ($50 billion), they differ significantly on the split between base and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding with the Senate cutting base funding $2.7 billion and shifting those monies into the off-budget, OCO account.
House and Senate Appropriations staff have been working for several weeks to reconcile the differences between their respective bills and it appears that the final negotiated State-Foreign Operations measure will include base and OCO State-Foreign Operations funding levels that fall closer to the Senate levels of $39.7 and $8.6 billion, respectively. The House provided levels of $42.4 billion for base programs and $5.9 billion for OCO. The current FY15 CR provides $43.3 billion in base funding and $6.5 billion for OCO. So overall, the funding level is expected to be slightly less than current funding.
FY Supplemental Funding
Mitigating the loss of some base funds for International Affairs will likely be Congress’s approval of additional funds for combating Ebola in West Africa and fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria that the Administration requested earlier this month. Of the total $6.18 billion Ebola supplemental request, $2.9 billion (47%) falls within the International Affairs Budget. Of this total, $1.54 billion ($790 million of which is International Affairs funding) is designated in a Contingency Fund, which could be tapped by a Presidential designation and notification to Congress. Overall, the Ebola request has been well received on Capitol Hill and is largely non-controversial, though Congress is unlikely to approve the contingency monies as requested.
The budget amendments to fight ISIS total $5.6 billion, $520 million of which is International Affairs funding, including:
Both the Ebola and ISIS requests are expected to be funded as part of next month’s vote on an FY15 omnibus/CR package.
2. Bipartisan International Affairs Bills Advance in the House
In a continuing sign of bipartisan support for protecting the world’s most vulnerable populations, three International Affairs bills advanced in the House last week. Here is a brief summary of each bill:
Senate action on these three measures is in flux. While the Senate has companion bills for three measures – the Girls Count Act (S. 2591), the Global Food Security Act (S. 2909), and the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (S. 2946) – none have been acted on by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.