July 31, 2015

International Affairs Budget Update, 7/31/15

1.  Recap of House and Senate Appropriations Action on FY16 International Affairs Budget

With GOP majorities in both the House and Senate, for the first time in six years, the Appropriations Committees in both chambers approved all 12 spending bills, including those that fund the International Affairs Budget—the State-Foreign Operations and Agriculture Appropriations bills. As expected, the President’s budget request remains the high-water mark. The House and Senate handled their bills differently with the Senate having the stronger of the two bills overall, though still 9% below the President’s request.

While USGLC is urging Congress to support no less than the Senate funding level, we have flagged two concerns. The Senate bill shifts funds from base programs to Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and with OCO set to expire in just a few years Congress will need to work to ensure strong base funding moving forward. Even more concerning, the total level is slightly below current funding and significantly below the President’s request. With an unprecedented number of “level three” humanitarian global crises (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan) and numerous other international challenges, now is not the time to cut back on our development and diplomatic programs.

Click here for USGLC’s detailed analysis and key account comparisons between the House and Senate bills.

International Affairs Budget Snapshot*

FY15 Enacted FY16 Request** FY16 House FY16 Senate
Base $41.6 billion $48.5 billion $42.1 billion $40.6 billion
OCO $9.3 billion $7.0 billion $7.3 billion $9.3 billion
Total $50.9 billion $55.6 billion $49.4 billion $50.6 billion*

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

Agriculture Appropriations

On July 16th, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY16 Agricultural Appropriations bill, which includes two major international affairs accounts. The Senate bill provides $1.466 billion for the Food for Peace (PL 480/international food assistance) program, the same level provided in FY15, but above both the request (+$66 million) and House (+$49 million) levels. In the case of the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition account, the Senate bill provides $202 million, $10 million more than provided in the House bill (which holds funding to this year’s level). This additional $10 million, which could be used to purchase some McGovern-Dole food aid locally or regionally, is half of what the Administration requested for this initiative.

International Agriculture Appropriations Snapshot

FY15 Enacted FY16 Admin Request FY16 House Agriculture FY16 Senate Agriculture
Food for Peace P.L. 480 Title II $1.466 billion $1.4 billion $1.417 billion $1.466 billion
McGovern-Dole $192 million $192 million $192 million $202 million*
Local and Regional Procurement $0 $20 million $0 $0*
Total $1.658 billion $1.612 billion $1.609 billion $1.668 billion

*Allocates $10 million of McGovern-Dole funding to local and regional procurement.


2. SFRC Approves Smith Nomination to Lead USAID; Floor Consideration Unclear

On Wednesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the nomination of Gayle Smith to be the next USAID Administrator. Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Diplomacy at the National Security Council, was nominated by President Barack Obama in April to fill the vacancy left by the departure of former Administrator Raj Shah.

USGLC issued a press statement urging her swift confirmation, noting the enormous challenges facing the world that require strong and effective leadership at USAID. While Senate leadership has initiated the steps to approve her nomination as part of a broader nominations package before adjourning for the August recess next week, holds have been put on her nomination.

3.  Ex-Im Reauthorization Hits Another Roadblock

By a vote of 64-29, the Senate passed an amendment to the highway trust fund reauthorization bill on Monday that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) for five years; the amendment was sponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). House Republican leadership, however, refused to take up the Senate version of the bill before departing for its August recess, thereby keeping Ex-Im in limbo until at least September. Although Ex-Im is funded through the end of the fiscal year, the lack of authorization prohibits it from approving financing of any new loans. It is unclear what—if any—legislative vehicle will be available for Ex-Im’s reauthorization before September 30th, though the expected Continuing Resolution is a possibility. As lawmakers return to their districts for the August recess, constituent supporters and opponents of Ex-Im are likely to be vocal on the issue.