September 30, 2015

International Affairs Budget Update 9/25/15

Congress Working Through Short-Term CR: Slight Across-the-Board Cut to International Affairs Budget

With just three legislative days left before the end of the Fiscal Year, Senate Republican leadership made the first move this week to keep the government open past September 30th—although the path toward passage of a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) still faces obstacles. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, released a short-term CR that would fund the government through December 11th.

The two-and-a-half month CR is intended as a stop-gap measure to give the Administration and Congress time to negotiate a broader deal that would fund the government for the full year. As expected, the measure, which included a controversial provision that would defund Planned Parenthood, was blocked by a vote of 47-52. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed a “clean” CR without controversial provisions on Thursday, which the Senate will consider early next week.

Impact on the International Affairs Budget

The proposed CR would maintain spending at slightly below current levels. In order to comply with the spending caps contained in the Budget Control Act (BCA), the measure includes a 0.21% across-the-board cut, which would be applied to both Defense and Non-Defense Discretionary programs, including the International Affairs Budget.

The proposal contains a few notable provisions related to the International Affairs Budget:

  • Maintains Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding—which unlike “base” budget funding, is not constrained by the caps—at its FY15 level ($9.3 billion) and exempts it from the 0.21% across-the-board cut imposed on the rest of the discretionary budget;
  • Allows funding flexibility, such as higher operating rates, for assistance needed to support Ukraine’s efforts to counter external aggression;Extends authority through the duration of the CR for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; and
  • Extends authority through the duration of the CR for the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

What’s Next?

The path forward became more clear today. Barring a filibuster from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Senate is expected to pass the clean CR early next week. The announcement by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) that he will retire in October means an easier process in the House. Boehner’s retirement has cleared the way for an eventual vote on a clean CR next week, although it is still possible the House could first pass a funding bill that defunds Planned Parenthood before taking up the clean CR.