December 11, 2015

International Affairs Budget Update 12/11/15

1. Short-Term CR Allows Omnibus Negotiations to Continue

In order to buy more time to complete negotiations on the omnibus package, which stalled during the week, Congress has passed a five-day Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through midnight next Wednesday, December 16th.  Both chambers have cleared the short-term CR, which is on its way to the President’s desk for signature.  The measure buys additional time for congressional leadership to finish negotiating the omnibus, which has been tied up over disagreements on several policy riders, including those related to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.  House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) has said he is hopeful the omnibus can be completed before Wednesday’s deadline as Congress is expected to adjourn for the holidays on Friday, December 18th at the latest.

As we’ve been reporting, due to the parameters of the two-year budget deal reached in October, we expect the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill will receive additional Non-Defense Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, bringing the OCO account to approximately $15 billion in FY16.  It remains unclear how Appropriators will allocate the additional Non-Defense Discretionary base budget funding, i.e. whether base State-Foreign Operations will receive a proportional increase, remain flat, or potentially be cut.  Because of the significant increase in OCO funding and new flexibility within that account to fund programs not necessarily associated with traditional emergency programs, it is possible that base funding will be cut.

USGLC has continued to strongly urge lawmakers to protect International Affairs programs by providing at least FY15 funding for base programs, in addition to an increase in OCO funding.  An over-reliance on OCO—given the temporary nature of the account—significantly threatens funding for programs that address long-term, enduring challenges.  USGLC will release a comprehensive analysis of the State-Foreign Operations portion of the omnibus as soon as it is made available.

2. House Passes Foreign Aid Transparency Bill

On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 3766).  During debate on the floor, lead sponsor Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) stated that the bill “will give us the tools to make foreign aid programs efficient and effective,” by establishing transparent accounting of foreign assistance.  Lead co-sponsor Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) stated, “Perhaps, with more information, we can dispel the commonly held belief that 26 percent of our budget goes to foreign aid, when… it is actually less than 1 percent.”  USGLC issued a press release applauding the bill’s passage and urging the Senate to pass the companion bill (S. 2184) sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) before the end of the year.  Senate leadership is working to bring the bill up for a vote before the Senate recesses for the holidays.