Advocacy Update ~ March 26, 2018

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

FY18 Omnibus Bill Passes

Six months into the fiscal year (FY), and five Continuing Resolutions and two government shutdowns later, we finally have a spending bill for FY 2018. With hours to spare before another potential shutdown, President Trump signed the $1.3 trillion package on Friday afternoon, but not before threatening to veto it earlier in the day.

Congress sent a strong message to the administration by rejecting the more than one-third cut that had been proposed in the President’s budget released last May. Overall, the omnibus bill contained $55.9 billion for the International Affairs Budget; this is $2.1 billion (3.8%) increase from FY 2017 enacted levels if you exclude the ISIS and famine supplementals.

For Global Health Programs at USAID and State, funding largely reflected levels determined by the Senate last year, with flat funding across all accounts and minor increases to maternal and child health (including the U.S. contribution to Gavi) and tuberculosis as compared to FY 2017 enacted. In addition, Congress provided additional funding to the Global Health Security account, using unobligated Ebola funds ($100 million) and replenishing the Emergency Response Fund ($35 million), for a total of $207.5 million. Of particular note for global health security activities is language requesting within six months a strategy from NSC, agencies, and the inter-agency group.

In the Labor, Health and Human Services section of the bill, CDC’s Center for Global Health and Emerging Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases both saw increases. In particular, Global Public Health was increased to continue critical global health security activities. Key accounts at NIH, including the Fogarty International Center also saw increases.

See related resources below:

Tillerson Out as Secretary of State, Pompeo Nominated for the Role; New CDC Director Named

In mid-March, President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and announced that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would be nominated to step into the role. Tillerson will formally remain in the position until March 31, but is delegating the running of the State Department to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. Tillerson was instrumental in leading a “redesign,” or reorganization, plan at the agency, but it remains to be seen how or in what way those plans will continue under his successor. A confirmation hearing for Pompeo is expected in April. Normally during this time of year, the Secretary of State testifies before Congress on the President’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year; however, with the change in leadership, it is unclear if a hearing will be held to on the agency’s proposed budget.

In addition, last week, HHS Secretary Alex Azar named Dr. Robert Redfield as the new Director of CDC. Dr. Redfield recently served as a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and is co-founder of the Institute for Human Virology. While Redfield has an extensive background in research, his broader public health experience in the U.S. or abroad is unclear. Some media and members of Congress have pointed to controversy around his screening proposals and vaccine research early in the U.S. AIDS epidemic. Others have noted his extensive work on addiction as a co-morbidity to HIV.

USAID Administrator Testifies on FY 2019 Foreign Assistance Budget 

Last week, the Honorable Mark A. Green, USAID Administrator, testified at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the FY 2019 Foreign Assistance Budget. While Committee members appreciated Administrator Green’s efforts to stretch USAID dollars to maximize results, the committee emphasized that the proposed one-third cut to USAID funding will “hamstring USAID’s efforts on these fronts.” Administrator Green agreed that this budget does not allow USAID to do everything and highlighted the importance of leveraging resources through domestic resource mobilization and the private sector. There was little emphasis on global health, but he did emphasize the agency’s commitment to women and girls. A few members, including Congresswoman Lois Frankel, inquired about the reinstatement and expansion of the Mexico City Policy. Administrator Green reaffirmed that the State Department and USAID will put out a more detailed evaluation of the rule at the end of the year.

A week before the hearing, members of Global Health Council met with Administrator Green to hear about his vision for global health and the agency. The small group discussion focused on agency funding and reform as well as the process and timeline for how countries transition from U.S. development assistance. Global Health Council was encouraged by the discussion and will continue to engage with Administrator Green and senior leadership at USAID on these issues.