Advocacy Update ~ February 12, 2018

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Advocacy Manager, and Melissa Chacko, Policy Associate.

6 More Weeks of FY18 Appropriations Discussions

On Friday morning, President Trump signed into law a budget deal that includes a six-week stopgap spending bill, the fifth Continuing Resolution (CR) for this fiscal year (FY). This CR will keep the government open through March 23. This latest activity came about after extensive debates on lifting the spending caps and a push by House Democrats for a floor vote on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The budget deal and CR was temporarily threatened by Senator Rand Paul, who blocked a vote until after midnight on Thursday night, resulting in a brief government shutdown – the second one of the fiscal year.

The budget deal resolves the challenge Congress was facing on spending caps and sequestration. The legislation a $320 billion package that raises discretionary and non-defense discretionary spending over the next two years. Breaking this down, defense spending will rise by $80 billion and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending will rise by $63 billion for FY18, with $21 billion in NDD targeted for domestic priorities. For FY19, defense spending will increase an additional $85 billion and NDD spending will go up an additional $68 billion.

While the increase in NDD spending allows leeway for appropriators to maintain level funding in the International Affairs account (150 account), final allocations, known as 302(b), for each spending bill, still need to be determined. With about one-third of the increase in NDD spending already targeted for specific programs, it doesn’t leave much left to be allocated to other accounts. Moreover, the budget deal includes a cut to the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in the 150 account, meaning that our best hope for level funding for this account is to increase base spending. The 302(b) levels are expected tonight or Tuesday morning. Then appropriators will spend the next six weeks finalizing FY2018 spending bills, most likely wrapping all spending bills into an omnibus bill.

View GHC Appropriations Chart.

President’s FY19 Budget

The President’s FY19 Budget is expected to be released today. It’s unclear if a full budget or a “skinny” budget, with just topline numbers, will be made available. Justifications for the recommendations are not expected until spring. Similar to last year, we expect to see around a one-third cut to the International Affairs budget. GHC will release an analysis of the budget when it is available.

State Department Releases 6-month Review of Mexico City Policy

Last week the State Department released a review of the first six months of the implementation of the expansion of the Mexico City Policy (renamed to the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance). With the review covering May-September 2016, and many awards, particularly within PEPFAR, not yet subjected to the policy, it wasn’t expected that anything more than a superficial analysis could be provided. The review cites that only four NGOs declined to comply with the policy, but over 500 prime recipients of U.S. funding have not yet had to determine compliance. The review primarily acknowledged the need for clarification on parts of the language dealing with financial support, training, and termination due to non-compliance.

The State Department committed to another review to be completed by December 15, 2018. GHC will continue to advocate with the State Department and other agencies for a thorough and transparent review in order to fully understand the impact of and how to mitigate harm from this expanded policy.

Read the Six Month Review.

Read GHC’s statement.

CDC Plans to Pull Back from 39 of 49 Country Posts

In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that CDC would downsize its programs in 39 of the 49 countries where CDC maintains an overseas presence to support global health security activities. The downsizing is in anticipation of the expiring five year Ebola supplemental package at the end of FY19. The remaining ten countries that the CDC plans to focus on are India, Thailand, Vietnam, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Guatemala. In response to this potential scale back, Global Health Council, the Global Health Security Consortium, Next Generation Global Health Security Network, and the Global Health Technologies Coalition sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and others in the administration, to share the concerns on the pending funding cliff and asked for an open dialogue with HHS to discuss how to move forward. Read the letter here. The letter was circulated on news platforms such as the Washington Post and CNN.

Dr. Anne Schuchat Assumes Acting Director Role at CDC

Dr. Anne Schuchat will serve as acting director of CDC following the resignation of Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald at the end of January. Dr. Fitzgerald’s resignation came shortly after Politico published reports that exposed her investments in a tobacco company after she accepted the director’s position.