Advocacy Update – June 19, 2017

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Advocacy Manager, Global Health Council.

FY18 Hearings and USAID Administrator Nomination Hearing Part of Busy Week on Capitol Hill

Last week was a busy one on Capitol Hill. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified at four separate hearings on the proposed FY18 budget for the State Department (including USAID’s budget). He appeared before the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee in the House and Senate, as well as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC). Secretary Price testified before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee to answer questions on the proposed budget for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Later in the week, Mark Green appeared before SFRC regarding his nomination to serve as Administrator of USAID.

Finally, the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations subcommittee of HFAC marked up the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act (H.R.1415).

Tillerson Testifies on FY18 Budget for State and USAID

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faced four different committees (State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee in the House and Senate, as well as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC)) last week to answer question on the administration’s proposed FY18 budget for the Department of State and USAID.

Republicans and Democrats alike lambasted the proposed cuts, of up to a third, to the foreign affairs budget. Citing multiple humanitarian crises, ISIS, and global health concerns, Chairman Lindsay Graham (R-SC) pointed out that these cuts would put lives at risk. Secretary Tillerson defended the cuts by stating that “Our budget will never determine our ability to be effective. Our people will.” He also stressed the need for other countries to do more.

Since the hearings focused on the entire budget for State and USAID, global health was only a small part of the hearings. Members raised questions about cuts to PEPFAR, maternal and child health programs, as well as the zeroing out of family planning funding. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) both raised questions about the expansion of the Mexico City Policy to cover all global health funding and the impact the expansion would have. Tillerson stated that the expansion would be minimal and that the State Department would assess in six months.

Price Testifies on FY18 Budget for Department of Health and Human Services

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services on Thursday to answer questions about the FY18 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes funding for NIH and CDC. While much of the focus was on Republican-led legislation to replace Obamacare, several Senators did voice opposition to cuts to NIH and CDC and expressed support for the two agencies.

Green Nomination to Lead USAID Advances to Full Senate for Vote

Last Thursday, the Honorable Mark Green testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination to serve as Administrator of USAID. Green is a former Ambassador to Tanzania and a former Congressman representing Wisconsin.

With the Trump administration recommending cuts of up to one-third for the foreign affairs budget, questions regarding the President’s proposed FY18 budget were a critical part of the hearing. Green stated that the organizing principle of foreign assistance should be on ending its need to exist, he assured the Committee that “USAID will not walk away from our commitment to humanitarian assistance, and we will always stand with people everywhere when disaster strikes.”

Senators also raised questions regarding the possible restructuring of USAID and the State Department, including the possibility that the two could be merged. When asked about restructuring, Green responded, “I believe that the State Department and USAID need to be closely aligned, but I believe they have different cultures.”

Green’s nomination was passed by the Committee and now advances to the full Senate.  

NTDs Bill Marked Up

Late last week the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked up the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act (H.R.1415). Introduced by Congressmen Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY), the legislation would implement R&D and implementation activities to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Overall the Committee was supportive of the bill, recognizing that diseases no know borders, and passed the legislation without amendment. The bill now advances to the full Committee for consideration. Since Title II falls under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the bill will also need to be considered and passed by that Committee.