Zika Proposals Pass House & Senate, Senate Approps Passes FY17 Ag Bill, GFSA Moves Ahead

1. House and Senate Pass Zika Proposals, Major Differences Remain

Both the House and Senate passed legislation providing funding to combat Zika but the path for a bill to reach the President’s desk remains unclear. The House-passed legislation, authored by Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), proposes $622 million to combat the virus, including $119 million for the State Department and USAID. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 241-184 and contains pay-fors (offsets) through redirecting unspent Ebola funding and other funds within the Department of Health and Human Services. The Administration quickly issued a veto threat against the House bill noting that it provides less than one-third of the Administration’s $1.9 billion request.

On the other side of the Capitol, by a vote of 68-30, the Senate approved a bipartisan proposal by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) to provide $1.1 billion for the response via an amendment to the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations bill. The amendment, which includes $258 million for the State Department and USAID, designates the spending as emergency funding and therefore is not offset.

Notably, the Senate voted on two other proposals this week to fund the response to Zika, although both failed on a procedural motion:

  • An amendment offered by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to provide $1.1 billion, with funding fully offset, failed on party lines; and
  • An amendment offered by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) to fully fund the Administration’s $1.9 billion request also failed, although five Republicans supported the measure.

Next Steps

The significant differences between the House and Senate funding approaches to address Zika have likely set up a protracted negotiation before a package gets to the President’s desk. Negotiations between the chambers will hinge not only on funding levels, which vary considerably, but also on whether to offset funding. The legislative vehicle—whether a stand-alone bill as the House passed or an amendment to another bill as the Senate passed—will also need to be negotiated.

2. Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Food Aid Funding

Earlier this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY17 Agricultural Appropriations bill, which includes funding for two food aid accounts: Food for Peace (P.L. 480 Title II) and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program. The bill provides $1.6 billion for Food for Peace, $120 million (7%) below current levels, but $250 million (19%) above the request. Notably, the Senate bill provides $130 million more for Food for Peace than provided by the House bill, which was marked up in April.

The Senate bill also provides $202 million, $20 million more than requested, for the McGovern-Dole program—the same level included in the House bill and provided in FY16. Neither bill includes the $15 million requested by the Administration for purchasing some food aid locally or regionally, but the Senate bill would allow $10 million from the existing McGovern-Dole account to be used for this purpose.

FY17 Agriculture Appropriations International Programs Snapshot

FY16 Enacted FY17 Request FY17 House  FY17 Senate 
Food for Peace/P.L. 480 Title II $1.72 billion $1.35 billion  $1.47 billion $1.6 billion
McGovern-Dole $202 million $182 million $202 million $202 million*
Local and Regional Procurement $0 $15 million  $0 $0*
Total $1.92 billion $1.55 billion $1.67 billion  $1.8 billion

*Allows $10 million of McGovern-Dole funding to local and regional procurement.

3. Global Food Security Act Takes Another Step Forward

On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the Senate-passed Global Food Security Act (S. 1252) led by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). At the markup, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) noted that the bill “advances policies that will improve food security and better enable people to grow their own way out of poverty,” and thanked Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) for his leadership on the House bill (H.R. 1567), which passed the chamber 370-33 on April 12th.