September 8, 2017

Senate Defeats Paul Amendment, 3-Month CR, House & Senate SFOPS Moving, Reorg News

This week saw a whirlwind of activity on the International Affairs Budget – from consideration of the Senate State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Appropriations bill, to an amendment by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) that would have cut USAID funding nearly in half, to SFOPS programs being debated on the House floor for the first time in seven years.

In the end, Congressional support for U.S. engagement in the world came out on top. The Senate SFOPS bill flew through the Appropriations Committee and was approved with unanimous support, Senator Paul’s amendment was overwhelmingly defeated, and bipartisan members of the House spoke out in support of the International Affairs Budget on the floor. A round-up of the week’s news, including movement in the reform and reorganization space, is included in the update below.

1. Senate Overwhelmingly Defeats Paul Amendment; Three-Month CR and Harvey Relief Headed to President’s Desk

In the rush to deliver relief to victims of Hurricane Harvey, the President and Congressional leaders agreed this week to provide billions in funding for the hurricane, extend the debt ceiling, and keep the government open through December 8. The deal won bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and is headed to the President’s desk for signature. The story of this deal and its impact on the International Affairs Budget, however, relates to an amendment that would have cut foreign assistance by more than $15 billion.

When the spending package came up for a vote in the Senate, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) offered an amendment to offset the Hurricane relief by slashing USAID’s budget. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) moved to table – or set aside – Senator Paul’s amendment. Thanks to a quick mobilization by our coalition members both in and outside of the beltway, the vote on the motion to table the amendment, in which a ‘yes’ vote amounted to opposition to the underlying amendment, was agreed to by a strong bipartisan vote of 87-10. Senators who voted ‘no’ on the motion to table included Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tim Scott (R-SC), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), James Lankford (R-OK), and Jim Risch (R-ID).

USGLC President and CEO Liz Schrayer released a statement noting that the Senate’s rejection of Senator Paul’s amendment “to gut close to half of USAID’s budget makes clear that we must always care for our citizens in times of disaster without undercutting our security and economic interests around the world.” USGLC is grateful for the swift action from our members and partners that helped create the momentum for a sound defeat of the amendment.

2. House State-Foreign Operations Bill on the Floor for First Time in Seven Years

In addition to passage of a three-month Continuing Resolution (CR), this week the House began consideration of an eight-bill appropriations omnibus that included the State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) bill. This is the first time the SFOPS bill has been considered on the House floor since 2010.

A number of amendments to the SFOPS portion of the bill were introduced and considered over two days, including a few that would have reduced the topline funding level. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) offered an amendment to defund the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), which failed by voice vote. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), and Liz Cheney (R-WY) circulated a letter opposing the amendment and several members from both parties spoke out in strong opposition on the floor. As a reminder, the last time an amendment of this nature was on the floor it received 168 ‘yes’ votes. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) also offered an amendment that would have cut a scholarship program and reduced the SFOPS topline, which failed 105-307.

Other amendments related to the International Affairs Budget that received a roll call vote include:

  • An amendment offered by Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) increasing funding for the Western Hemisphere Regional Cooperation program by $10 million and reducing contributions to the International Organizations and Programs account accordingly. Agreed to, 217-193.
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA) transferring $30 million from the Fulbright Program to the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement account. Failed, 163-248.
  • An amendment by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – and offered by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) on her behalf – prohibiting contributions to several UN bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Failed, 199-212.

Next Steps

In order to allow House members from the southeast region to return home to prepare for Hurricane Irma, House leadership pulled the omnibus bill from the floor late this week. Consideration and a final vote on the package will occur next week, but debate over the SFOPS portion of the bill is complete.

3. Senate State-Foreign Operations Bill Moves Through Committee

This week, the Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and full Committee approved the FY18 State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) bill. Notably, Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) included particularly strong language in the bill’s accompanying report repudiating isolationist policies and reaffirming Congressional support for development and diplomacy. The report did not shy away from criticizing the Administration’s foreign policy, stating its “apparent doctrine of retreat… serves only to weaken America’s standing in the world.”

As mentioned previously, the SFOPS bill provides $51.2 billion in discretionary funding for State-Foreign Operations, split between $30.4 billion in base funding and $20.8 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. While this funding level is still below current levels, it is far above the Administration’s request and also above the allocation proposed in the House. During debate, Senators Graham and Leahy also noted that “now is not the time to retreat” and more funding is needed for development and diplomacy programs.

International Affairs Budget Snapshot

FY17 Enacted FY18 Request** FY18 House FY18 Senate
Base $38.4 billion $28.5 billion $36.9 billion $32.2 billion
OCO $20.8 billion* $12.0 billion $12.0 billion $20.8 billion
Total $59.1 billion $40.5 billion $48.9 billion $53.0 billion

*Includes $4.3 billion provided in the FY17 Security Assistance Appropriations Act
**Based on CBO’s re-estimate of the Administration’s request

During the full committee markup, Senators offered nine amendments on a variety of issues, including the Mexico City Policy or Global Gag Rule, cholera victims in Haiti, climate change, arm sales to Turkey, and Russia sanctions. A few amendments of note:

  • An amendment offered by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to boost the bill’s topline and to shift $5.29 billion from OCO to base funding. Failed.
  • An amendment offered by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) to codify the Office of Global Women’s Issues within the State Department. Passed as part of the Manager’s Package.
  • An amendment offered by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and others to ensure the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Migration, and Refugees maintains jurisdiction over refugee policy. Passed as part of the Manager’s Package.

Select Program Highlights

Next week, USGLC will release a comprehensive comparison of the Senate, House, and Administration’s FY18 proposals, but in the interim below are some details on specific program funding levels in the Senate bill.

  • Reform and Reorganization: The Senate bill includes a number of reporting and other requirements related to the Administration’s efforts to reform and reorganize the State Department and USAID. A few highlights include:
    • A prohibition on the use of funds to “close, move, or otherwise incorporate USAID” into the State Department.
    • A requirement that the Administration submit a report and notify the Appropriations Committee of any reorganization or redesign plans for the State Department and USAID and requires such proposals to be submitted to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the respective Inspectors General as well.
    • A requirement that the Secretary of State and USAID Administrator submit a National Diplomacy and Development Strategy.
  • Global Health: The bill includes $8.71 billion for global health programs, including the redirection of $120 million in unobligated FY15 Ebola balances. In contrast to the Administration’s request to expand the Mexico City Policy, or Global Gag Rule, to all global health funding, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment offered by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that repeals the policy, preserves funding for USAID family planning programs, and restores the U.S. contribution to UNFPA to FY17 funding levels.
  • Development and Economic Assistance: The Senate bill cuts the Economic Support Fund about 15% compared to FY17 levels, but less deeply than the Administration requested. Development Assistance (DA) is cut by 3% and funding for the Democracy Fund, Millennium Challenge Corporation, and Peace Corps is kept flat from FY17. Notably, the bill rejects the Administration’s proposal to consolidate several of these accounts into a new Economic Support and Development Fund.
  • Humanitarian Assistance: The Senate bill includes $3.11 billion for refugee assistance, roughly $250 million less than in FY17. It provides $3.13 billion for disaster assistance, which is an increase compared to FY17 levels if the $990 million in famine relief included in the FY17 Omnibus and the additional funding provided in December 2016 are excluded.
  • Peacekeeping: The Senate bill provides funding to cover the 25% statutory cap on U.S. assessed contributions to UN Peacekeeping, the same as FY17 levels. This amount likely falls short of what is needed and could add approximately $230 million in arrears.
  • International Security Assistance: The Senate bill provides $8.29 billion for international security assistance, $1.1 billion less than FY17, and funds these programs entirely through the OCO account. Notably, the bill rejects the Administration’s request to transition Foreign Military Financing (FMF) from grants to loans.
  • Agencies Slated for Elimination in Administration’s Proposal: The Senate bill rejects the Administration’s proposed elimination of six agencies.
    • U.S. Institute of Peace: The bill includes $37.9 million, the same as FY17.
    • Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC): The bill sets out $99.2 million, a 10% increase from FY17.
    • U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA): The bill includes $79.5 million, a 6% cut from FY17.
    • East-West Center: The bill provides $16.7 million, the same as FY17.
    • Inter-American Foundation: The bill includes $22.5 million, equal to FY17 levels.
    • African Development Foundation: The bill provides $30 million, flatlined from FY17.

Next Steps

Floor consideration of the Senate SFOPS bill is very unlikely, which means we won’t likely see a final bill until Congress approves a comprehensive budget deal. Instead, with this week’s passage of a Continuing Resolution to fund the government through December 8th, negotiations on a budget deal to raise the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending will begin in earnest.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle acknowledge that a budget deal must be reached in the next several months in order to fund the government in FY18, and there is bipartisan support for reaching a deal. As negotiations between Congressional leaders and the Administration continue, it will be imperative that funding for non-defense discretionary spending be increased in order to properly fund America’s development and diplomacy programs.

4. Redesign Recommendations Headed to OMB; Tillerson Previews Plan for Envoys

Next week, the State Department is expected to submit its “redesign” recommendations to OMB to meet a mid-September deadline outlined in the President’s March executive order on reorganizing the federal government. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson previewed his recommendations to consolidate or eliminate the large number of special envoy positions in a letter to Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) last week.

In the letter, Secretary Tillerson noted at least 30 special envoy positions are proposed for elimination including special envoys to Syria and Sudan and South Sudan as well as the Transparency Coordinator. Other positions are retained, including the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, while the State Department’s Office of Global Food Security would be transferred to USAID.

Members of Congress and outside stakeholders are also continuing to advance a number of proposals and recommendations.

  • The FY18 House and Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bills include strong language on Congress’s role in the redesign.
  • This week, the Atlantic Council put forward its proposal to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of U.S. foreign assistance programs.
  • Just before the August recess, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed its FY18 State Department authorization bill with strong language on:
    • Congressional oversight and consultation on redesign
    • The need for a national diplomacy and development strategy
    • Protecting USAID’s independence
    • Maintaining the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration within the State Department