May 8, 2012

International Affairs Budget Update, 5-4-12

1.    Action Begins Next Week on State-Foreign Operations Appropriations

When Congress returns next week from recess, work on the FY13 appropriations bills will ramp up with committee action on the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bills.  House action will begin next week, with Senate action starting the week of May 14th.

The House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee will mark up the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill May 9th, with the full Committee taking up the bill the following week.  Amendments are expected to be offered by Democrats on the Subcommittee to address concerns with funding and policy items in the bill.  The Senate bill is expected to be taken up by the subcommittee May 15th and marked up by the full Committee on the 17th.

The House will take up a bill providing $48.3 billion for State-Foreign Operations (which accounts for 95% of the International Affairs Budget), $5 billion (-9%) below the Senate level of $53 billion.  What is particularly important about the allocation is the different way House and Senate appropriators use the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.  The Senate shifted nearly $5 billion from OCO (war-related funding) back to base funding.  The result of this shift, coupled with the lower overall funding levels, yields a large gap – $9.7 billion (19.5%) – between the House and Senate’s base funding levels.

The remainder of the International Affairs Budget that is not funded under the State-Foreign Operations bill is largely funded under the Agriculture Appropriations bill.  Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY13 Agriculture Appropriations bill, providing $1.65 billion for international food aid programs: $1.47 billion for P.L. 480 Title II/Food for Peace and $184 million for McGovern-Dole Food for Education.  This represents flat funding for food aid programs compared to current spending.

2.    House Budget Committee to Mark up Legislation to Replace Sequestration

Monday afternoon the House Budget Committee will mark up legislation authored by Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) aimed at offsetting automatic spending cuts set to take effect in 2013 under the Budget Control Act’s mandated sequestration.  Two bills will be taken up during the markup, with the first – The Sequester Replacement Act (H.R. 4966) – eliminating language from last year’s Budget Control Act requiring sequestration.  The second bill – The Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act – would offset the automatic cuts to discretionary spending by cutting the same amount from mandatory programs.  Based on recommendations from six authorizing committees, the legislation cuts a total of $78 billion in FY13 from areas such as food stamps, federal employee pensions, and changes to medical malpractice laws.