March 7, 2011

International Affairs Budget Update, 3-4-11

1.        President Signs Two-Week Extension of FY11 Continuing Resolution (CR);
Senate Democrats Unveil Alternative CR
2.        Secretary Clinton Testifies Before Congress on the International Affairs Budget

1.        President Signs Two-Week Extension of FY11 Continuing Resolution (CR);
Senate Democrats Unveil Alternative CR

On Wednesday, President Obama signed into law a two-week extension of the FY11 Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown and give congressional leaders more time to work out an agreement on the level of spending cuts for the final six months of FY11.  The Senate passed the extension by a vote of 91-9 following the House’s 335-91 vote on Tuesday.  The extension contains $4 billion in cuts to current funding levels, although none are from the International Affairs Budget.

As negotiations on a final FY11 budget deal between House and Senate leaders and the White House got underway on Thursday, Senate Democrats this afternoon unveiled their alternative Continuing Resolution (CR), which reduces FY11 spending $51 billion below the President’s request level.  For State-Foreign Operations, which constitutes the vast majority of the International Affairs Budget, the Senate measure provides $50.15 b, $500 million below current CR levels but $4.2 billion (7.6%) below FY10 levels. The House-passed CR (H.R. 1), which reduces total spending $102 billion below the President’s request level, includes a 19% cut to the International Affairs Budget (for State-Foreign Operations the cut is 16%).

In its summary of the State-Foreign Operations provisions, the Senate Appropriations Committee states that the Senate measure “preserves U.S. leadership in key areas such as global health and child survival, providing $885 million more than H.R. 1 for life-saving health programs, and $1.1 billion more to respond to humanitarian crises. The Senate CR also provides $428 million more than H.R. 1 for clean energy technology and other global environment programs, and $200 million for the global food security fund to offset food shortages and famine, which H.R. 1 does not fund at all.” The Committee also states that its measure “responds to the significant increase in funding requirements for the civilian component of the counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the transition from military to civilian presence in Iraq.”

Next week the Senate will take up both its new CR and H.R. 1.  Neither measure is expected to receive filibuster-proof support, underscoring the need for a broader budget deal between the Senate, House Republicans, and the White House.

As the debate on FY11 ratchets up and work on the FY12 budget resolution is about to get underway, the USGLC is gearing up for a Budget Lobby Day on March 16.  It’s a critical time to demonstrate the broad support our coalition brings for a strong and effective International Affairs Budget.

2.     Secretary Clinton Testifies Before Congress on International Affairs Budget

This week, both the House and Senate held several hearings related to the International Affairs Budget, chief among which was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony before Senate and House authorizers and appropriators — the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Secretary Clinton sounded the  alarm about the devastating impacts of H.R. 1 and responded to Members’ questions on several foreign policy matters – including Libya, Iran, Afghanistan and the so-called “information war” the U.S. is up against with China and the Arab world and their strategic communications.  Time and again, she told Members that the House-passed cuts for FY11 would have a destructive impact on our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as well global health, development assistance, and a myriad of other international affairs programs.

Secretary Clinton’s warning about FY11 cuts were strongly shared by several Members, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman.  Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also expressed concerns, noting that “The account we’re talking about can make the difference between a safe America or an at-risk America… if you don’t see it as a national security tool, then I think that we are missing the mark as a nation.”  House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) had a different view, statingThe real question is not: Is this activity useful?  But rather: Is this activity so important that it justifies borrowing money to pay for it and further endangering our nation’s economy.” 

Two other hearings of note were a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the global economy and a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on State Department activities in Iraq. At the Senate hearing, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner spoke of the importance of the World Bank and the multinational development banks, asserting, “our investments in institutions like the World Bank are among the most powerful and cost-effective ways we have to promote US interests — our economic interests and our security interests. And it’s worth emphasizing that if we cede influence in these institutions or if we deprive them of resources, we will cede influence to China and other countries on the global stage.”

At the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing, the State Department’s Undersecretary of Management Patrick Kennedy reiterated, like Secretary Clinton, that the State Department would not be able to carry out its mission in Iraq with the cuts to State and USAID passed by the House in H.R. 1.  Subcommittee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) expressed skepticism about the State Department’s readiness, stating “The central issue before us today is whether the State Department is ready to assume the mission in Iraq…the answer appears to be no.”

Other international affairs-related hearings included a House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on oversight of the State Department and a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on reforming the United Nations, at which Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) worked to build momentum for her United Nations reform bill.