1. House State-Foreign Operations Bill Moves Forward As Conversations on a Continuing Resolution Heat Up
With Congress back in session this week for a two-week sprint before summer recess, the House State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY17 bill by voice vote on Wednesday. As reported previously, the bill provides a total of $52.0 billion, including $37.1 billion in base and $14.9 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. This is roughly 1% below both the FY16 enacted level and $100 million below the level recently approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The bill increases funding for embassy security, international security assistance, and global health and maintains funding for humanitarian and development assistance. As mentioned before, the bill cuts multilateral assistance, economic support funding, and assistance for the UN and UN peacekeeping. At the markup, State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) noted that the bill supports U.S. national security priorities while Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) expressed her concerns about the bill’s treatment of family planning, climate change, and multilateral institutions.
The full House Appropriations Committee will consider the bill next Tuesday, marking the last congressional action on the bill, as it is very unlikely to be considered on the House floor. The Senate Appropriations Committee has also approved its State-Foreign Operations bill. However, with fewer than 30 days left on the legislative calendar before the election, House and Senate leaders are already discussing a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would keep the government open through the election.
This week, conservatives in the House and Senate began pushing for a six-month CR that would fund the government through March. This would effectively end the appropriations process for the year and rely on the new President and Congress to finalize FY17 spending bill. Others, however, are advocating for a three-month CR that would allow Congress to finalize spending bills during the lame-duck session. Congressional leadership has yet to decide a way forward.
2. Standoff over Zika Funding Persists
The Senate remains deeply divided over the negotiated Zika funding package that the House approved in late June. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has assured that the funding will be approved before Congress leaves for recess at the end of next week. While Democrats continue to oppose the package due to controversial policy riders and offsets, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated this week that the Administration would accept a $1.1 billion funding package without offsets—a change from the Administration’s previous demand for the full $1.9 billion it had requested to address the virus—but the path forward remains unclear as Democrats continue to oppose policy riders included in the package.
3. Global Food Security and Foreign Aid Transparency Bills Pass Congress, Head to President for Signature
In a sign of strong congressional support for foreign assistance legislation amid an otherwise stymied political environment, the Global Food Security Act (S. 1252) and the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3766) passed Congress this week and are headed to the President’s desk. USGLC President and CEO Liz Schrayer issued a statement praising Congress for its commitment to effective foreign assistance legislation, saying “This is smart aid at its best. And it’s what the future looks like as we leverage strategic partnerships between governments, businesses, and non-profits working together.”
The Global Food Security Act, led by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Betty McCollum (D-MN), authorizes a whole-of-government global food security strategy to combat chronic hunger and malnutrition around the world. The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, authored by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), ensures that U.S. foreign assistance programs will continue to be effective, accountable, and results-driven.