June 24, 2016

House SFOPS Allocation Released, House Approves Zika Funding, Bipartisan Bills Move Forward

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

  • International Security Assistance: The bill provides roughly a $200 million increase from FY16 levels.  International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement programs receive the largest boost but Foreign Military Financing, International Military Educational Training, and Peacekeeping Operations also receive increases.
  • Diplomatic and Embassy Security: The bill increases funding by about $455 million compared to current levels.
  • Global Health Programs: The bill increases funding by $413 million, approximately 5% above current levels. Funding for sub-accounts is not yet available although the appropriations press release notes that the Global Health Security account received a significant increase compared to current levels.

Cuts Funding for Multilateral Assistance, Economic Support Funds and UN Organizations and Peacekeeping

  • Multilateral Assistance: The bill cuts funding by $877 million (roughly one-third) from current levels and zeros out funding for voluntary contributions to the International Organizations and Programs account and the Green Climate Fund.
  • Economic Support Funds (ESF): The bill cuts funding by $278 million (6%) from FY16 levels.
  • UN and UN Peacekeeping: The bill cuts funding for the UN and other international organizations by $100 million (7%) compared to current spending. It also reduces funding for UN Peacekeeping Operations by $511 million (21%).

Funds Other Accounts at their FY16 Levels

  • Humanitarian Assistance: Compared to current levels, the bill holds funding for Migration and Refugee Assistance, International Disaster Assistance, and Emergency Migration and Refugee Assistance essentially flat at $5.9 billion. This, however, amounts to a major (23%) increase above the Administration’s request, which argued that because of a large increase in FY16 less funding was needed for these accounts in FY17.
  • Development Assistance: The bill maintains flat funding for the Development Assistance account at $2.8 billion.

Next Steps

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:

  • Foreign Aid Transparency Moves Closer to Passage. Reps. Ted Poe’s (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly’s (D-VA) Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3766) appears to be moving forward in the Senate, and the bill could pass the chamber as early as next week. The bill, which originally passed the House in December 2015, will need to be voted on again in that chamber before heading to the President’s desk.
  • Global Food Security on Five-Yard Line. Momentum behind the Global Food Security Act (S.1252; H.R. 1567) continues to build on the Hill, demonstrated by the House bill’s strong passage (270-33) through that chamber on April 12th. The Senate bill passed the Senate by voice vote on April 20th, was unanimously approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 18th, and awaits consideration on the House floor.
  • Digital GAP Act Introduced. On Tuesday House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), along with Reps. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) and Grace Meng (D-NY), introduced the Digital GAP Act (H.R. 5537), which seeks to provide first-time internet access for at least 1.5 billion people in developing countries by 2020. This bill is one among several other bills that Chairman Royce has been pushing forward this year.