1. House State-Foreign Operations 302(b) Finally Announced: Modest Cut
As Congress grinds toward an extended summer recess in mid-July, the House Appropriations Committee released its FY17 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill this week—one of the last bills to be released by the Committee.
The Committee provides a total of $52.0 billion for the FY17 State-Foreign Operations bill, which funds 96% of the International Affairs Budget. This is about 1% (approximately $600 million) below current levels and is slightly below both the Administration’s request and the Senate’s 302(b) allocation. The bill provides $37.1 billion in base funding, which includes funding for long-term development and diplomacy programs, and $14.9 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, which is used to fund emergency situations, war-related programs, and other global crises.
With the two-year budget deal reached last year that kept overall discretionary spending relatively flat, the 1% cut in funding is fairly modest given earlier proposals to cut these programs deeply. However, even with a modest cut—as well as the supplemental funding working its way through Congress to combat the Zika virus—real concern remains that these funding levels are not keeping pace with numerous, growing global challenges.
State-Foreign Operations Snapshot
|FY16 Enacted||FY17 Request||FY17 Senate SFOPS||FY17 House SFOPS|
|Base||$37.8 billion||$37.7 billion||$37.2 billion||$37.1 billion|
|OCO||$14.9 billion||$14.9 billion||$14.9 billion||$14.9 billion|
|Total||$52.7 billion||$52.6 billion||$52.1 billion||$52 billion|
The bill contains several policy riders and prohibitions on funding that will likely be met with Democratic resistance as the legislation moves through the appropriations process, including a prohibition on funding for the Green Climate Fund and certain UN agencies.
While more details will become available when the Committee releases its report (most likely after the bill is considered by the full committee), the FY17 bill:
Boosts Funding for International Security Assistance, Diplomatic Security and Global Health
Cuts Funding for Multilateral Assistance, Economic Support Funds and UN Organizations and Peacekeeping
Funds Other Accounts at their FY16 Levels
The State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee had planned to markup the bill this week, but the partisanship that erupted in the House on Wednesday over the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy stalled consideration of the funding bill. Instead, the House recessed and will return in early July. As of now, the Committee is expected to re-schedule the Subcommittee markup for early July, before the summer break for the Conventions, with a full Committee markup following afterward. However, given the heightened political tension, it may prove difficult to move any legislation through Committee let alone the House floor.
The appropriations process has moved much more smoothly on the Senate side—although it is not without its difficulties. The State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and full Committee could approve their version of the FY17 bill as soon as next week.
Regardless of how far the appropriations process moves in either Chamber, both the House and Senate are expected to pass a short-term Continuing Resolution that will fund the government through the end of the year, with final funding decisions being made during the lame duck session.
2. After Contentious Evening, House Approves Zika Supplemental
On the heels of the House Democrats’ sit-in over gun control, early Thursday morning Republican leadership brought a Zika supplemental conference report up for a vote on the House floor and passed it without debate by a vote of 239-171. The conference report has already garnered criticism by Democrats—including a veto threat by the President—over grave concern that the level of funding in the supplemental is insufficient and contains contentious policy riders. Only six Democrats voted for the bill, after House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) criticized it for being “insufficient given the severity of the public health emergency facing the Western Hemisphere.”
After passing separate funding bills last month, earlier this week House and Senate appropriators unveiled the conference report, which provides $1.1 billion to confront the virus—the same amount approved by the Senate last month, but significantly less than the Administration’s $1.9 billion request. The legislation includes $175 million for the State Department and USAID, of which $145.5 million is designated for Global Health Programs and $29.5 million is marked for State and USAID Operations. Also of note, approximately $750 million of the $1.1 billion in total funding is offset by using unspent Ebola balances ($107 million) and cuts to Obamacare programs. Finally, the legislation includes a number of controversial policy riders related to birth control and the use of pesticides.
Even with House passage, the path to the President’s desk is elusive. The Senate is scheduled to consider the legislation next week, but Senate Democrats have vowed to block it unless the controversial policy riders are removed. And late Thursday, the White House issued a veto threat, saying the funding level falls far short of what is needed to combat the disease. Should the conference report fail to garner a majority in the Senate, negotiators would need to go back to the drawing board after the recess to find a way forward.
3. More Bipartisan Legislation Moves Forward
In a show of continued bipartisan consensus around International Affairs authorizing legislation, this week the Senate and House took steps forward on a number of bills: