June 26, 2015

International Affairs Budget Update, 6/26/15

1.  House Appropriations Committee Releases FY16 Agriculture Bill: Mixed Results for Food Aid Programs

The last part of the International Affairs Budget—food aid programs—made its way through another House Subcommittee mark-up.  The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee approved its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which includes funding for two International Affairs accounts – Food for Peace (PL 480/international food assistance) and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition account.  The bill provides $1.417 billion for Food for Peace (commonly referred to as food aid), of which $350 million is for non-emergency assistance – $49 million (3%) below current levels and $17 million (1%) above the Administration’s request.

Notably, in the report language accompanying the legislation the Subcommittee stated its strong support for the program, but argued that the overall funding level prohibited them from maintaining current funding levels. For the McGovern-Dole program—which supports school feeding and maternal and child nutrition programs around the world—the bill includes the Administration’s request of $191.6 million, the same as current levels.

As in years past, the Administration’s budget request also proposed reforms to the Food for Peace program.  Specifically, the Administration requested flexibility to use a certain percentage of funding for vouchers and/or local purchase of food to ensure victims receive aid quickly. However, noting that other government-wide programs offer the flexibility requested by the Administration the Subcommittee did not include the flexibility provision in this bill. Finally, the bill does not include the Administration’s $20 million request for the USDA Local and Regional Procurement Program, which was authorized in last year’s Farm Bill.

FY16 Agriculture Appropriations International Programs Snapshot

FY15 Enacted FY16 Admin Request FY16 House Agriculture
Food for Peace P.L. 480 Title II $1.466 billion $1.4 billion $1.417 billion
McGovern-Dole $192 million $192 million $192. million
Local and Regional Procurement $0 $20 million $0
Total $1.658 billion $1.612 billion $1.609 billion

The full Committee postponed consideration of the bill this week so Members could travel to South Carolina for memorial services and the mark-up has yet to be rescheduled. The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to release its Agriculture spending bill.

2.  Appropriators Hit Pause as Congress Recesses

With Congress in recess next week the Appropriations process will pick back up the week of July 6th. At this point, the Senate Appropriations Committee could begin consideration of its version of the FY16 State-Foreign Operations bill as early as July 7th, though the timing could slip. As a reminder, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $49.0 billion in total funding for the State-Foreign Operations bill; $39.0 billion in base funding, $9.3 billion in OCO funding, and $759 million in emergency funding.  In total, this represents a 1% cut from enacted levels and an 8% cut from the Administration’s request. The Senate allocation is 2% above the House allocation, but the cut in base funding remains a concern.

SFOPs Funding Snapshot

FY15 Enacted* FY16 Admin Request FY16 House SFOPs 302(b) FY16 Senate SFOPs 302(b)
Base $40.0 billion $46.9 billion $40.5 billion $39.0 billion
OCO $9.3 billion $7.0 billion $7.3 billion $9.3 billion
Total $49.3 billion $53.9 billion $47.8 billion $49.0 billion*

*The table excludes $2.5 billion in emergency funding, which was provided specifically to combat the Ebola crisis in West Africa in FY15, but includes the Senate’s FY16 302(b) allocation of $759 million in emergency spending.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) continues to push leadership to consider all 12 spending bills on the House floor.  However, with several pressing and controversial bills on the calendar in July, it is increasingly unlikely that the State-Foreign Operations bill will be considered on the House floor.

3.  Congress Considers Several International-Related Bills Before Recess

Several important bills related to International Affairs programs were introduced and considered in Congress this week. Below is an update:

Electrify Africa Introduced in the House

On Tuesday House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), along with Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Karen Bass (D-CA), re-introduced legislation that would increase access to electricity in Sub-Saharan African countries. The Electrify Africa Act of 2015 (H.R. 2847) would direct the President to establish a multi-year policy, partnership, and funding strategy.  The legislation would assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa to develop an appropriate mix of power solutions in order to alleviate poverty and drive economic growth. During the 113th Congress, the full House passed the Electrify Africa Act by a vote of 297-117, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed its version, the Energize Africa Act, out of committee. However, the bill did not pass the full Senate before adjournment.

The Senate is expected to re-introduce its version of the legislation next month.

AGOA Heads to the President’s Desk 

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) reauthorization was approved by Congress as part of a larger trade package this week and is on its way to the President’s desk for signature.  Congress first authorized AGOA in 2000 and expanded it in 2004 with broad bipartisan support to encourage export-led economic development in 39 sub-Saharan African countries, and improve U.S. economic relations with the continent.  The ten year reauthorization, which was set to expire September 30th, will continue to strengthen the U.S.-Africa economic relationship.

Export-Impact Bank Charter Set to Expire

Despite several months of the business community and key stakeholders pushing for the Export-Import Bank’s (Ex-Im) reauthorization, the bank’s charter is set to expire next Tuesday, June 30th.  The Senate took a largely symbolic vote on Ex-Im’s reauthorization earlier this month with the support of 65 Senators, but congressional leadership failed to move a legislative vehicle for the bank’s reauthorization before recessing.  The bank’s shutdown is expected to be temporary and congressional leadership plans to attach the reauthorization to the highway bill in July.  Although the bank is funded through September, the lapse will prevent Ex-Im from approving financing of any new loans.