September 8, 2017
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:
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:
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.
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.