1. Outlook for FY16 Budget Action
The FY16 budget debate, which officially begins early next month, is expected to be a significant show-down between Capitol Hill and the White House as both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue use it as a vehicle for highlighting the spending and policy differences between the two parties in the lead up to the 2016 Presidential race.
The President is expected to send his budget request to Congress on February 2nd. Per Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance last year, federal departments and agencies submitted two FY16 budget requests to OMB in September which were reviewed, modified, and returned to them in November: one request at flat levels to reflect sequestration and another at 5% above current spending levels. The latter option is expected to be the approach the Administration takes in its FY16 request, proposing a budget that increases discretionary spending above sequester levels by finding alternative savings and revenue increases in the budget.
As noted above, FY16 will see automatic across-the-board cuts under sequestration kick back in for discretionary spending accounts, with the International Affairs budget classified as part of non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending. Under sequestration, defense programs would face a cut of 9.4% while NDD would be cut 7% compared with the caps set out in the Budget Enforcement Act of 2011. The pre-sequestration cap for NDD in FY16 is $530b, which is approximately $38b higher than current FY15 NDD. But with sequestration, the funding level for NDD programs in FY16 would drop to nearly flat funding compared to FY15.
Some Republicans are expected to push to undo sequester cuts for defense spending while maintaining sequester cuts for NDD spending. For example, House Budget Chairman Price (R-GA) has indicated he would like to undo the firewall between defense and NDD spending, allowing more flexibility to boost the defense budget above sequester levels.
The list below includes key dates in the coming months for FY16:
- January 20 – State of the Union Address
- February 2 – President’s Budget Request
- February 27 – CR for DHS Expires
- March (mid-late) – Action begins on House and Senate Budget Resolutions
- May – Action begins on House and Senate Appropriations
2. Leadership and Roster Changes to Key Committees
With a new Congress, and particularly the change to Republican control of the Senate, come some major changes to committee assignments for the 114th Congress. Republican control of the Senate will dramatically reshape committee leadership and party ratios, forcing Democrats to lose either one or two seats on each panel. Committee changes in the House will not be as dramatic, but there are several key changes noted below. Both the Senate and House continued working this week to finalize committee and subcommittee assignments and are expected to announce and approve the changes in the coming days.
Here are some key committee changes highlighted below:
- House Appropriations Committee – The GOP side of the Committee has four new members, with Reps. Jolly (R-FL) and Rigell (R-VA) and freshmen Reps. Jenkins (R-WV) and Young (R-IA) joining. Rep. Granger (R-TX) was granted a waiver to continue to serve as the Chairwoman of the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee. The State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee will see at least one new face on the Republican side with Rep. Wolf’s (R-VA) retirement and speculation is that Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE) may take his place.
- House Foreign Affairs Committee – Reps. Kinzinger (R-IL), Holding (R-NC), Collins (R-GA), and Messer (R-IN) are leaving the Committee. New to the Committee are current Reps. DesJarlais (R-TX) and Ribble (R-WI) as well as freshmen Reps. Trott (R-MI), Zeldin (R-NY), and Emmer (R-MN). Subcommittee Chairs will remain largely the same with the only shifts being Rep. Salmon (R-AZ) moving to the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee and Rep. Duncan (R-SC) assuming the Chairmanship of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee.
- House Budget Committee – With Rep. Ryan’s (R-WI) move to the Ways and Means Committee, the Budget Committee has a new Chairman in Rep. Price (R-GA). In addition, the Committee has ten new Republican Members, including Reps. Stutzman (R-IN), Sanford (R-SC), Schock (R-IL), and Brat (R-VA) and freshmen Reps. Blum (R-IA), Grothman (R-WI), Moolenaar (R-MI), Mooney (R-WV), Palmer (R-AL), and Westerman (R-AR).
- Senate Appropriations Committee – Sen. Cochran (R-MS) will assume the Chairmanship of the Committee, with Sen. Mikulski (D-MD) becoming Ranking Member. The committee makeup will see several changes due to a mix of retirements, election losses, and departures. Sen. Coats (R-IN) is leaving the Committee and the Committee will see seven new Senators. Four freshmen Republican Senators who all previously served in the House – Sens. Capito (R-WV), Cassidy (R-LA), Lankford (R-OK), and Daines (R-MT) – were awarded spots on the panel. On the Democratic side, Sens. Schatz (D-HI), Baldwin (D-WI), and Murphy (D-CT) are joining the Committee. The State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee will welcome several new members with the departures of Sens. Harkin (D-IA), Landrieu (D-LA), and Begich (D-AK) and departure on the Republican side of Sens. Coats (R-IN) and Johanns (R-NE).
- Senate Foreign Relations Committee – Sen. Corker (R-TN) will assume the Chairmanship and Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) will become Ranking Member. Committee veteran Sen. Isakson (R-GA) is returning to SFRC for the 114th Congress. He will be joined by freshmen Sens. Gardner (R-CO) and Perdue (R-GA). Sen. Durbin (D-IL) is also leaving the Committee due to the loss of one Democratic seat on the Committee, while Sen. McCain (R-AZ) is leaving to assume the Chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee.
- Senate Budget Committee – Sen. Enzi (R-WY) is assuming the Chairmanship of the Budget Committee, while Sen. Sanders (I-VT) has been named Ranking Member. Sen. Corker (R-TN) and freshman Sen. Perdue (R-GA) are joining the Committee. Democrats are losing two seats, leaving Sens. Nelson (D-FL) and Coons (D-DE) to not return to the Committee.
3. Lame Duck Action on International Development Legislation
The lame duck session saw action on a number of international development bills. Below is information about those relevant bills:
- The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (H.R. 2901) was the only piece of legislation that made it through both chambers and was signed into law. It passed under suspension in the House on December 8 and in the Senate by voice vote on December 15; it was signed by the President on December 19. The legislation will enable the U.S. to better increase access to clean water and sanitation throughout the world and allow for the development and implementation of projects to improve sanitation and hygiene 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) was passed by voice vote in the House on December 10 and would authorize for one year the Feed the Future initiative to advance food security and nutrition worldwide. The legislation was later “hotlined” for passage in the Senate, but it was not acted upon. It is expected to be reintroduced in the new Congress.
- The Girls Count Act (H.R. 3398) passed the House under suspension on November 19. The legislation supports programs in developing countries that improve birth registration for girls, and promotes policies that prevent discrimination against girls. The Senate companion bill, S. 2591, was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but was not acted on prior to the end of the lame duck. It is expected to be reintroduced in the new Congress.
- The Electrify Africa Act (H.R. 2548) was passed by the House, but failed to move in the final days in the Senate. The legislation was passed last May by a vote of 297–117, while the Senate companion bill, the Energize Africa Act (S.2508), was passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last July, but was not acted upon by the full Senate prior to the end of the lame duck. The legislation directs the President to establish a multiyear policy, partnership, and funding strategy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa develop an appropriate mix of power solutions to provide sufficient electricity access to people living in rural and urban areas in order to alleviate poverty and drive economic growth. In addition, both bills would reauthorize the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), with the House bill authorizing OPIC for three years, while the Senate authorizes it for five years.