December 4, 2015

International Affairs Budget Update 12/4/15

1. Appropriators Inch Toward an Omnibus Deal

With a two-year budget deal in place, House and Senate Appropriators have been working furiously to come to agreement on a FY16 omnibus spending bill, which will include funding for International Affairs programs.  Spending levels have more or less been finalized, but the Committees and Congressional leadership are still negotiating what, if any, policy provisions will be included in the final bill.  House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) has said his goal is to release the bill early next week in order to pass the legislation through Congress by December 11th, when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires, but that deadline may have slipped after Democrats rejected the initial Republican proposal earlier this week.

Depending how quickly Appropriators can find agreement on policy issues, it may be necessary for Congress to enact another short-term CR to keep the government running after December 11th.  House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) alluded to as much earlier this week.  In the worst case, it is possible that the disagreement over policy riders could result in a government shutdown—though there is a strong desire among Republican and Democratic Congressional leadership to avoid this outcome.

As a reminder, in October Congress reached a budget deal that increases total discretionary spending by $66 billion in FY16.  The additional funding—which is offset by cuts to mandatory programs and revenue increases—is divided equally between Defense and Non-Defense Discretionary programs.

  • Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD): Increased $25 billion in FY16
  • Defense: Increased $25 billion in FY16
  • Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO): Increased $16 billion in FY16, split evenly between Defense and Non-Defense

We understand that the State-Foreign Operations bill will receive the additional Non-Defense OCO funding, bringing the OCO account to approximately $15 billion in FY16.  It remains unclear how Appropriators will allocate the additional NDD funding, i.e. whether base State-Foreign Operations will receive a proportional increase, remain flat, or potentially be cut.  However, 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.

Over the last several weeks, USGLC has activated its network both inside the Beltway and around the country 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.

2. Gayle Smith Confirmed as USAID Administrator

This week, the Senate voted 79-7 to confirm Gayle Smith to be the 17th Administrator of USAID.  In April, President Barack Obama nominated Smith, then the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Diplomacy at the National Security Council, to fill the vacancy left by the departure of former Administrator Raj Shah.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved her nomination in late July, but a hold on her nomination prevented a vote on the floor until this week.

The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), were instrumental in shepherding the nomination through the Senate.  During floor debate Senator Cardin said, “Our national security depends on having a strong military, but it also depends upon having a strong position in international development assistance in dealing with our diplomacy.  And the Director of the USAID is a critical member of our national security team.  We couldn’t have a stronger person for that position than Gayle Smith.”  Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) voted against the nomination.

USGLC issued a press release on Monday applauding the Senate’s confirmation of Smith, noting the unprecedented number of global humanitarian crises and thus the need for strong and effective leadership at USAID.  Smith’s significant experience in bipartisan initiatives and global development will no doubt help the agency address these challenges and advance America’s interests around the world.

3. Ex-Im Bank Reauthorized

After months of delay, Congress passed legislation this week that included a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.  In July, the Senate approved an amendment to the highway trust fund bill that would reauthorize the Bank for five years, and the House approved the reauthorization in a stand-alone bill in October.  After conference negotiations, the House (359-65) and Senate (83-16) passed the final highway bill this week which included the reauthorization language.  The President is expected to sign the bill.  Although the Bank continued to receive operational funding through the end of the fiscal year (and through the current Continuing Resolution), the lack of authorization had prohibited it from approving financing of any new loans.