August 4, 2014

International Affairs Budget Update, 8/4/14

1. FY14 Emergency Supplemental Stalls: House and Senate Far Apart

Before departing for the August recess, a bitter partisan battle took place between the House and Senate over the President’s call for a $3.7 billion emergency supplemental to address the crisis at the U.S. southwest border and the surge of immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

After pulling the bill on Thursday when it became apparent the votes were not sufficient to pass it, the House delayed its scheduled recess, returned Friday with modified language, and approved the supplemental (H.R. 5230) along a largely party line vote of 223-189. The Senate, after having agreed to limit debate for its bill (S. 2648) on Wednesday, did not proceed to floor votes in the face of amendments to cut the size of the supplemental, remove its emergency status, and add policy provisions opposed by Senate Democratic leadership. As Congress heads into the August recess, the unfinished business of the border supplemental remains with the House and Senate far apart in their respective approaches to the crisis.

In early July, the Administration sent Congress an emergency supplemental request that included $3.7 billion for the migration crisis and $615 for fighting wildfires. Included in the request was $300 million for International Affairs programs that would address problems in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico, largely dealing with the root causes of the migration surge. All funds fall under an emergency designation and would not require offsets from existing appropriations accounts.

Although paring the request back to $2.7 billion for the humanitarian crisis along America’s southwest border, the Senate bill reflects the general outlines of the Administration’s request.  Separately, the Senate includes the full $615 million for wild land fire management. A third component in the Senate measure that provides funding for additional Iron Dome interceptors for Israel was split off and passed Friday by both chambers.  All funds are termed as emergency spending. The White House has said that it strongly supports the Senate package.

In sharp contrast, the House’s supplemental measure cuts the request dramatically — to $694 million — providing only funds that the Appropriations Committee estimates will be needed through September 30. The House legislation also adds several contentious policy provisions including amendments to the 2008 Anti-Trafficking in Persons law. Moreover, the House measure does not declare the supplemental as emergency spending, thereby requiring offsets for the $694 million appropriation, including some from the International Affairs Budget. In order to attract enough Republican votes to pass the bill, House leaders on Friday added funds to send more National Guard troops to the border and tightened further the anti-trafficking law. Earlier in the week, the White House issued a statement that top advisers would recommend the President veto the House measure.

International Affairs Programs in FY14 Supplemental Compared




Total new appropriations

$300 million

$300 million


Reallocation from existing appropriations



$40 million

Emergency designation



$197 million rescission

Future funding contingent on Central American government cooperation




For International Affairs programs, differences between the Senate and House are stark. The Senate provides $300 million, identical to the request, although with some variation in the accounts through which funds would be provided. In general, however, the Senate measure supports the full range of programs recommended for State and USAID that stretch from repatriation and reintegration efforts, to activities addressing the root causes in Central America that stimulate the migration surge, to media campaigns in the region to alert citizens of the dangers children face on their journey and the minimal prospects that they will be allowed to remain in the United States.

In contrast, the House measure negatively impacts International Affairs programs in two substantial ways. First, it does not provide any new appropriations for assistance to Central America, allowing only up to a maximum of $40 million that must be re-allocated from existing, prior-year appropriations for the region. These funds can only be used for repatriation and reintegration activities, leaving the bulk of the Administration’s request targeting root causes, economic opportunities, at-risk youths, and judicial institutional capacity building to be addressed in future appropriations.

Secondly, the House bill rescinds $197 million in base Economic Support Funds (ESF), which is problematic given the strains on base ESF funding.  Over the past two years, Congress has reduced the Administration’s ESF requests by over one-third. It also means that the International Affairs Budget would absorb 28% of the total offset required under the non-emergency appropriation despite the fact that no additional International Affairs funds are included in the package.

The one area common in the request and House and Senate bills is the requirement for the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico to cooperate with U.S. efforts to deal with the migration surge of unaccompanied minors. The Administration recommends that the State Department and USAID develop metrics to measure progress and cooperation on the part of these governments and make future funding contingent on the degree of that cooperation. The Senate bill requires a multi-year strategy addressing the root causes of the problem, identifying goals and benchmarks to be achieved. The House measure includes similar language requiring a quarterly report on steps taken by Central American governments to deal with such issues as border security, enforcement and enactment of laws to stem the flow of illegal entries, public outreach campaigns, and repatriation and reintegration. In both bills, the Secretary of State is directed to suspend U.S. assistance if governments are not making significant progress.

2. This Year’s Appropriations Bills Stall: Action Not Expected Until After Elections

After making some progress over the past three months on moving some appropriations bills through regular order, Congress heads into the five-week August recess without enacting any of the twelve spending measures. The House passed seven bills, but left five unfinished (including State-Foreign Operations). In the face of multiple policy riders that would force votes on highly contentious issues that Democrats want to avoid, the Senate has not been able to bring a single bill to the floor.

As previously reported, while both the House and Senate State-Foreign Operations bills are nearly identical on the total spending level, they differ significantly on the split between base and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding and on the prioritization of some accounts. Both bills total approximately $48.3 billion, but the Senate bill provides approximately $2.7 billion less in base funding than the House bill. The Senate measure includes $39.7 billion in base funding and $8.6 billion in OCO funds, while the House bill includes $42.4 billion in base funding and $5.9 billion in OCO funds.

State-Foreign Operations Appropriations

FY14 Enacted

FY15 Request

FY15 House

FY15 Senate

$42.481b Base

$42.658b Base

$42.381b Base

$39.660b Base

$6.519b OCO

$7.265b OCO*

$5.912b OCO

$8.625b OCO





* Includes a $1.4 billion amendment to the President’s original FY15 request.

Both the House and Senate bills prioritize funding for disaster and refugee aid, global health, and embassy security. In addition, both measures add funding above requested levels for Ukraine and other former Soviet and East European nations that face regional threats. However, the House imposes significant cuts in contributions to International Organizations, UN Peacekeeping, and several Multilateral Development Banks while the Senate maintains funding levels in keeping with the Administration’s request.

Account-by-Account details comparing House and Senate levels

3. Potential Endgame: What to Expect

With Congress leaving for the August recess, the FY14 border supplemental will be among the early orders of business when lawmakers return in September. How the appropriations measure proceeds, however, remains uncertain. Congress is only expected to be in session for two full weeks in September so there is limited time for these measures. Some have raised the prospect of combining the supplemental bill with an FY15 Continuing Resolution, which Congress must pass by September 30 in order to keep the government running. Others in the Senate have suggested splitting the supplemental into its separate components concerning the border crisis and wild land fire management and proceeding with them independently.

Final action on FY15 appropriations bills will not come until after the November mid-term elections in the lame duck session. The FY15 Continuing Resolution is expected to extend through December and depending on the outcome of the election, Congress will either finalize FY15 into an omnibus appropriations bill or extend the CR into early/mid 2015.