December 13, 2010

International Affairs Budget Update, 12-13-10

1.     House Passes Year-Long Continuing Resolution
2.     Senate Appropriations Chairman Continues Work on Omnibus Package
3.     Incoming House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Criticizes International
Affairs Spending
4.     House and Senate Announce Calendars For 2011

1.    House Passes Year-Long Continuing Resolution

Last Wednesday night, the House passed a full-year Continuing Resolution (CR) by a vote of 212-206 that funds discretionary accounts at the FY10 level of $1.09 trillion. No Republicans supported the measure, and 35 Democrats voted against it as well.  Billions of dollars were shifted within the CR, but it was kept at overall FY10 levels. The International Affairs Budget increased from the temporary CR’s funding level of $52.9 billion to $53.2 billion. The year-long CR represents a 9.5% cut from the President’s $58.8 billion FY11 request and a further 5.2% reduction from the $56.2 billion level approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this year.  The USGLC will release an in-depth analysis of the final FY11 appropriations for the International Affairs Budget once approved by both the House and Senate.

2.    Senate Appropriations Chairman Continues Work on Omnibus Package

The Senate continues to work on an ambitious omnibus package that would fund discretionary accounts at $1.108 trillion, approximately $18 billion higher than the House-passed CR. The omnibus level reflects a figure previously proposed by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and is $6 billion lower than the Senate’s 302(b) allocations. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) are working closely together on the package, and several Republicans have expressed openness to supporting it. The omnibus package would likely fund the International Affairs Budget at a higher level than the CR, but due to the McCaskill-Sessions proposal it may be as low at $54 billion, only $800 million above the House-passed year-long CR.  The omnibus will be debated by the Senate later this week.  If it fails to secure the required 60-vote threshold, the Senate will attempt to pass the House’s CR.  In addition to expressing opposition to the omnibus package, some Senate Republicans have already stated opposition to a year-long CR, seeking to impose additional cuts once the 112th Congress begins.

3.    Incoming House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Criticizes International Affairs Spending

The incoming chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), currently the Ranking Member, declared her intention to cut the State Department and foreign aid budgets in a statement after being elected committee chair by the House Republican Conference last week.

The statement read, in part, “I have identified and will propose a number of cuts to the State Department and Foreign Aid budgets. There is much fat in these budgets, which makes some cuts obvious. Others will be more difficult but necessary to improve the efficiency of U.S. efforts and accomplish more with less. We must shift our foreign aid focus from failed strategies rooted in an archaic post-WWII approach that, in some instances, perpetuates corrupt governments, to one that reflects current realities and challenges and empowers grassroots and civil society.”

While the House Foreign Affairs Committee does not have the ability to cut the International Affairs Budget directly, it authorizes international affairs spending and is highly influential on shaping foreign affairs appropriations. Her comments are concerning, and the USGLC will work with her office to ensure she fully understands how important the civilian-led tools of development and diplomacy are to our national and economic security.

4.    House and Senate Announce Calendars For 2011

House Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced the House and Senate legislative calendars for 2011. Both Houses of the 112th Congress will be sworn in on January 5. The House will not take a week-long recess in early January, as it has done in the past, but the Senate will take one starting January 17 in conjunction with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The House Republican retreat begins on January 13.

The House will adjourn for week-long “district work periods” about once a month, allowing members more time to travel home, representing a major shift from how Democrats have run the chamber the past four years.  View House and Senate calendars.