February 18, 2011

International Affairs Budget Update, 2-18-11

1. House Continues Debate on FY2011 Appropriations; Few Cutting Amendments to International Affairs Budget Adopted


The House is continuing debate on FY2011 appropriations today, expecting additional votes well into the evening. On Thursday, the House debated Title XI, the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill that contains the vast majority of the International Affairs Budget.  The good news is that while dozens of cutting amendments were filed, only four were actually debated with one very concerning amendment defeated.  The bad news is that the underlying funding level is still of grave consequence to these critical programs with a nearly 20% cut from FY2010 enacted levels for the International Affairs Budget.

International Affairs Cutting Amendments Considered and Voted Upon

After midnight on Wednesday, the House took up debate of amendments related to the International Affairs Budget.  Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed serious concern during the debate that the cutting amendments seriously jeopardize our national security and hamper economic growth, noting that aid is not a gift. The United States provides foreign assistance because it serves OUR interests.  Helping countries become more democratic, more stable, more capable of defending themselves and better at pulling themselves out of poverty is just as important for us as it is for them.”

Only four of the few dozen International Affairs Budget cutting amendments that were filed were offered and debated:

  • McClintock (R-CA) amendment to reduce debt restructuring by $20 million; ADOPTED by voice vote.
  • Weiner (D-NY) amendment to zero out funding for the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP); ADOPTED by a vote of 268-163.  The amendment received considerable debate with members agreeing that the USIP conducts important work, but arguing that its mandate is too similar to the State Department’s overall work.  Thirteen Republicans voted against the amendment, while 42 Democrats supported it.
  • Canseco (R-TX) amendment to zero out funding for the East-West Center; ADOPTED by a vote of 274-155.  Seven Republicans opposed the amendment, while 44 Democrats supported it.
  • Heller (R-NV) amendment to reduce several multilateral assistance accounts by more than $211 million; DEFEATED by a vote of 190-241.  The House sent a strong message in support of the International Affairs Budget by defeating this amendment.  Members of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, including Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) spoke in opposition to the Heller amendment during floor debate.  Fifty-nine Republicans, including nearly 20 freshmen Republicans, voted against the amendment, and 10 Democrats supported it.

Several International Affairs cutting amendments were pulled from consideration including an amendment by Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA) to eliminate funding for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and one by Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) to strike International Security Assistance for Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Israel.


Across-the-board Cutting Amendments

A few across-the-board cutting amendments are still pending, so additional cuts to the International Affairs Budget are still possible.  However, in a very encouraging sign, this afternoon the House DEFEATED 147-280 an amendment by Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), chair of House conservatives’ Republican Study Committee, to reduce most spending accounts by 5.5%, including State-Foreign Operations (with the exception of funding for Israel).  Ninety-two Republicans opposed the amendment and several Republicans spoke in opposition, including Representative Kay Granger (R-TX), Chairwoman of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.  Citing the detrimental impact the amendment’s passage would have on the International Affairs Budget, Granger stated that “The programs that are funded in the State-Foreign Operations title of this bill protect our top national security priorities.  The gentleman claims his amendment exempts national security, but it does not exempt the national security provisions in the State-Foreign Operations title.”

Outlook on Senate Action on FY11 CR


The Senate is beginning to draft their own FY11 Continuing Resolution, with Senate Democrats on Wednesday endorsing the President’s proposed five-year spending freeze on non-security discretionary spending, which exempts the International Affairs Budget from the freeze.

Also in the Senate this week, growing discussion occurred around a proposal being floated by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) to create an FY11 “Middle East Stability” package that would fully fund assistance for Israel,  Egypt and other critical Middle Eastern allies, — and separate this assistance from the rest of FY11 International Affairs spending.  Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the new Ranking Member of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and an increasingly outspoken advocate for International Affairs spending, cautioned against the proposal and urged a more comprehensive view of all International Affairs programs. “I just think we need to look at the whole account as a national security account that complements our military,” Graham stated.  “Diplomatic aid, rule of law aid, food programs . . . can deny al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood and other groups momentum.” Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) also expressed concern about the proposal.


Lastly, the chances of a government shutdown over FY11 funding appear to be growing, as Speaker Boehner (R-OH) said yesterday that he would not accept any short-term extensions of the current FY11 CR unless new spending cuts are included, reiterating that he would not allow current spending levels to continue beyond March 4, the date the current CR expires.



2. Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen Discuss Pooled Fund

Testifying this week before both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen discussed a new pilot program to fund security and stabilization where the missions of the State and Defense Departments overlap.  The Global Security Contingency Fund, part of the President’s FY2012 request, includes $50 million in the State Department’s budget and an additional $450 million that the Defense Department can transfer from its budget, if granted the authority by Congress.  This program would be in addition to 1206 funding that expires at the end of FY2011 and the Complex Crises Fund at State (that succeeded 1207 funding).

At both hearings, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen reiterated their strong support for the vital programs housed within the International Affairs Budget.  Mullen stated, “I reiterate my unequivocal support to Secretary Clinton and her efforts to fully resource the State Department’s and USAID’s activities and an expansion of its diplomacy and development capabilities, particularly in Iraq to support the transition from a military to a civilian-led mission.”