May 8, 2015

International Affairs Budget Update, 5/8/15

1.  House and Senate Pass Concurrent Budget Resolution: Funding Tight for International Affairs, But Deep Cuts Avoided

The FY16 budget and appropriations process continues to unfold at a fairly rapid pace, with relatively good results for International Affairs programs given the current political dynamics. This week, Congress finished action on the FY16 Budget Resolution, the first time such legislation has been agreed to by both chambers in eight years.   The Conference agreement on the Resolution was passed by the House (226-197) on April 30th and by the Senate (51-48) on May 5th. The conference agreement provides a binding top-line discretionary spending allocation to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees as well as non-binding recommendations for each of the 12 Subcommittees’ spending bills.

The Budget Resolution conference agreement reflects a return to sequestration, given the expiration of the two year Ryan-Murray budget deal.  For the FY16 International Affairs Budget, the conference recommends $47.1 billion, of which $40.1 billion is base funding, and up to $7.0 billion is allotted for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.  Conferees arrived at their final numbers by splitting the difference between the House and Senate levels for base funding, while the House deferred to the higher Senate figure for OCO.

The funding levels specified in the budget resolution for the various budget functions, such as International Affairs, are not binding. Instead, those levels are ultimately determined by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in their 302(b) allocations. As reported in our previous Budget Update, the House Appropriations Committee has already released its 302(b) allocations and the amount allocated for the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, $47.5 billion, is a marked improvement on the House Budget Resolution’s levels.  The challenge, however, remains the OCO account, which sustains a 24% reduction from current levels in the House allocation.  We should see the Senate’s release of their 302(b) allocations within the next few weeks.

FY15 Enacted* FY16 Admin Request FY16 House Resolution FY16 Senate Resolution FY16 Conference Agreement
Base $41.6 billion $47.8 billion $38.9 billion $41.3 billion $40.1 billion
OCO $9.3 billion $7.0 billion $4.0 billion $7.0 billion $7.0 billion
Total $50.9 billion $54.8 billion $42.9 billion $48.3 billion $47.1 billion

*FY15 enacted excludes $2.5 billion in supplemental funding to combat Ebola in West Africa.

2.  Graham Hosts Second “All-Star” Hearing on Global Health Programs

On Wednesday, Senate Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a second “All-Star” hearing to discuss the importance of global health programs.  Testifying before the panel was Sir Elton John, Founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation; Dr. Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddle Back Church; Dr. Mark Dybul, Executive Director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and Ambassador-at-Large Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.

Chairman Graham said at the outset of the hearing, “This account represents the best of the American people.  It is…saving lives and changing the world.”

Dr. Warren added, “the 150 account is probably the most effective account in the United States Budget…It matters to the world. And it actually is a matter of life and death to millions of people around the world.”

Sir Elton John focused his testimony on HIV/AIDS and the goal of an AIDS-free generation.  He recognized and praised America’s role in working towards this goal, saying, “Because of the actions of this Congress, the course of the AIDS epidemic was altered for all of humanity…the AIDS epidemic is not over, and America’s continued leadership is critical.”