July 17, 2017

House GOP Close to Agreement on Topline Spending, House Ag Bill Protects Funding

1. House Republicans Move Closer to Agreement on Topline Non-Defense Spending Levels

While House Republicans are still searching for a way forward on an FY18 budget resolution, they seemed to have reached agreement on the topline spending level for non-defense discretionary spending—known as the 302(a) allocation. Because negotiations continue, the topline funding level could still change, but last week House Republicans agreed to $511 billion for non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs in FY18.

This funding level is approximately $5 billion (1%) below the Budget Control Act (BCA) cap for FY18, and roughly $7.5 billion (1.5%) below the amount provided in FY17. Most importantly, it is far more than the Administration’s proposal of just $462 billion. This announcement follows one by Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who stated that the Senate Appropriations Committee would use approximately FY17 spending levels as the baseline for drafting the FY18 appropriations bills.

There is still much to do to protect the topline for the International Affairs Budget, but this step by House Republicans is the strongest indication yet that Congress is moving away from the deep cuts to non-defense discretionary spending originally proposed by the Administration. Ultimately the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will determine the topline for the International Affairs Budget.

Notably, both Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the Capitol have been calling for a bipartisan budget deal to lift spending caps above BCA levels as has been the practice in the past. That type of deal is not likely to come together before the fall and will likely lead to a scramble late in the year to finalize FY18 spending bills.

2. House Agriculture Appropriations Bill Released: Funding for Food Aid Mostly Restored

This week the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee released its FY18 bill and restored much of the funding for international food aid programs, which the Administration had proposed eliminating altogether. The bill provides $1.4 billion for Food for Peace (PL 480/international food assistance) program, $200 million (-13%) below the FY17 level. The bill funds the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program at $185 million, a $17 million (-8%) cut. At the mark-up, Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) expressed his support for these programs saying, “we continue to help others around the world who face starvation and malnutrition.”

FY18 Agriculture Appropriations International Programs Snapshot

FY17 Enacted FY18 Request FY18 House
Food for Peace/P.L. 480 Title II $1.6 billion $0 $1.4 billion
McGovern-Dole $202 million $0 $185 million
Total $1.8 billion $0 $1.59 billion

Next Steps

With the subcommittee action complete, the full House Appropriations Committee will likely take up the Agriculture spending bill after the July 4th recess. The State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) bill, which funds the lion’s share of the International Affairs Budget, could be released as soon as the week of July 10th.

The Senate is further behind in schedule. We anticipate the Committee will begin marking up spending bills in July but we are not likely to see the SFOPS bill or allocation until after the August recess.

3. Vote on Mark Green’s Nomination Expected After July 4th Recess

After the Committee vote was postponed this week, Ambassador Mark Green’s nomination to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will wait until after the July 4th recess. USGLC President and CEO Liz Schrayer has praised his nomination saying, “Ambassador Mark Green is an exceptional choice for USAID Administrator, able to arrive on day one ready to ensure that America’s global development programs continue to deliver results for our nation.” Her full statement and background on Mark Green can be found here.

4. Congressional Champions Defend the International Affairs Budget

The past few weeks have seen a marathon of hearings focused on the International Affairs Budget featuring Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

On a bipartisan basis, lawmakers have defended State Department and USAID programs as vital to protecting our national security, strengthening our economy, and projecting the best of America’s values overseas. They also highlighted the severe consequences of cuts to development and diplomacy programs proposed by the Administration. Below are several key quotes from the hearings:

  • Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “I think you know that the budget that’s been presented is not going to be the budget we’re going to deal with. It’s just not. And, I mean, the fact is that, you know, Congress has a tremendous respect for the diplomatic efforts that are under way, the aid that we provide in emergency situations.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Slashing our foreign operations and foreign assistance makes the world more dangerous for Americans and for America…The budget takes a penny-wise pound-foolish approach that will cost lives and endanger Americans here at home.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee: “If you don’t believe me, listen to the generals, that the State Department’s role in the war on terror is very important – to me, just as important as any military power we have… We cannot sit on the sidelines and let the State Department be seen as retreating at a time when we need more soft power and not less.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee: “The administration’s proposal to slash approximately 30 percent from the State Department and foreign assistance budget signals an American retreat, leaving a vacuum that would make us far less safe. This proposal would bring resources for our civilian forces to a third of what we spent at the height of Ronald Reagan’s peace through strength years. It would be internationally irresponsible, distressing our friends, encouraging our enemies and undermining our own economic and national security interests.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “Leading takes resources. Sufficient resources are needed for our military, for sure, but also for our diplomats working to end the many conflicts impacting our security. That’s what the generals say. In today’s well-connected age, in which threats can come from anywhere, we need a very broad diplomatic presence. That takes resources too, especially to keep our diplomats safe…Resources are also needed to support our humanitarian relief, development, and health specialists. Their work abroad benefits Americans at home.” (June 14, 2017)
  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “Some consequences of this budget will hit us down the road if we fail to invest in diplomacy and development now. The conflicts we don’t prevent will come back to us as the wars we’ll need to fight. Senator Lindsay Graham said it well, and I quote him. ‘If we implemented this budget, we’d have to retreat from the world and put a lot of people at risk.’ He said we would have, ‘a lot of Benghazis in the making if we actually implemented the State Department cuts.’” (June 14, 2017)
  • Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee: “I think I speak on behalf of all of my colleagues when I say we endorse the marriage of hard and soft power, military capability, and diplomacy, to assure our national security.” (June 15, 2017)
  • Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee and State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee: “Working to reduce suffering is a bipartisan goal. One that is rooted in the fundamental generosity of the American people, and our country’s national security needs. Foreign aid is not a Democratic or Republican cause. It is an American cause, and the right thing to do.” (June 27, 2017)
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee: “The sweeping cuts proposed to the State Department and our international assistance programs are deeply concerning. Many of us share the views articulated so well in the last couple of days by Admiral Mullen and General Jones in their recent op-ed entitled ‘Why Foreign Aid is Critical to the U.S. National Security.’” (June 14, 2017)
  • Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “The president’s proposal increases defense spending, but it also eliminates $17.3 billion from the State Department’s efforts to prevent wars and forge peace. Which is the very kind of spending that Secretary Mattis has said is so crucial to our military efforts.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS): “Investment in the State Department’s programs, when they are reduced, it gives other countries the opportunity to advance their causes if we leave any gap unfilled…China just last month pledged $124 billion for a new global infrastructure program. We are reducing USAID missions and eliminating economic development assistance to 37 countries around the globe… others will take advantage of our absence.” (June 13, 2017)