November 25, 2014

International Affairs Budget Update, 11/25/14

1. Lame Duck and FY15 Funding

After a brief return on November 12th, Congress recessed late last week and will return on December 1st to conclude the lame duck session of the 113th Congress.  Still remaining on their “must do” list is finalizing FY15 appropriations before the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on December 11th and acting on the President’s supplemental funding requests for the fights against Ebola and ISIS.

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:

  • $250 million for Foreign Military Financing to support Jordan and Lebanon;
  • $100 million for Economic Support Funds to support Syrian stabilization strategies and expand engagement with moderate Syrian opposition;
  • $90 million for International Disaster Assistance (managed by USAID) to address the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria; and
  • $65 million for Peacekeeping Operations to bolster capacity of the moderate Syrian opposition.

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:

  • The Girls Count Act(H.R. 3398), authored by Reps. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Lois Frankel (D-FL), passed the House under suspension on November 19th.  The legislation would authorize the State Department to work with other nations to support efforts to issue birth certificates and develop national registries for children in developing countries.  This effort is aimed at addressing the devastating amount of human trafficking and slave labor trades around the world.  Lead sponsor Rep. Chabot stated, “With this bill, Congress has the opportunity to address an injustice that is not only holding girls back from fully participating in society, but worse, exposing them to the particularly horrific evils of human trafficking.”
  • The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act(H.R. 2901), sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ted Poe (R-TX), was reported out of full Committee last week and would enable the U.S. to better increase access to clean water and sanitation throughout the world.  The measure would allow for the development and implementation of projects to improve sanitation and hygiene and increase access to water for the 2.5 billion people in the world who currently live without even the most basic sanitation services.
  • The Global Food Security Act(H.R. 5656), sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Betty McCollum (D-MN), was also reported out of full Committee and would authorize for one year the Feed the Future initiative to advance food security and nutrition worldwide. Feed the Future has been integral in reaching 12.5 million children and working with nearly 7 million farmers and food producers in 2013 alone.

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.