This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager, and Melissa Chacko, Policy Associate.
The following advocacy update was written May 21. A few additional highlights:
1.) The rescission package has stalled in the House. There do not seem to be enough votes to pass the legislation in its current form. The administration reportedly is considering changes to the proposal, including changing or removing the proposed rescission of Ebola funding. A vote is not expected in the House until sometime in June.
2.) This week the House and the Senate released 302(b) allocations, or topline spending levels for the FY2019 appropriations bills. For the State-Foreign Operation bills, the House provided $54 billion ($46 billion in base funding and $8 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)) and the Senate provided $54.4 billion ($46.4 billion in base and $8 billion in OCO). Compared to the FY2018 enacted level, the Senate provides an additional $400 million in funding, while the House provides level funding. For Labor-Health, Human Services, the House provided $177.1 billion, which is level funding compared to FY2018 enacted, and the Senate provided $179.288 billion.
3.) Due to the World Health Assembly, we are unable to provide a summary of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s hearings. A summary will be included in the next advocacy update.
On May 8, President Trump sent a “special message” to Capitol Hill with his recommendations for rescissions, or cuts to already appropriated funding. Included in the rescission package is a $252 million cut to remaining unobligated Ebola response funding from the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) account at USAID. The announcement of the rescissions came a day after the WHO declared a new outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, although it is not expected to have an effect on any U.S. response.
House leadership is bypassing the Appropriations Committee and will bring the bill, H.R. 3, directly to the floor for a vote. However, it’s not clear if they have the 218 votes needed for passage. It’s also unclear when it would come up for a vote; it was expected to be on the floor this week, but the failure to pass the farm bill on Friday might have thrown the House schedule into turmoil. Congress is in recess next week for the Memorial Day holiday, so it might not be until early June. While this process plays out, the proposed funds for rescission are impounded, meaning agencies are unable to spend the funds. The Senate is not expected to act on rescissions until the House passes its bill (if the House does not pass the bill, it’s unlikely the Senate will do anything).
Many members of Congress have stated that they are opposed to rescissions, but there could be a little more support for rescissions targeting appropriated funding prior to FY2018. The White House is expected to send another special message to Congress with proposed rescissions for FY2018 accounts at later date.
GHC’s Global Health Security Roundtable and the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium sent a letter to Congressional leaders opposing the proposed Ebola rescissions. Read the letter to Senate Leadership (and the identical letter sent to House Leadership).
Fiscal Year 2019 Updates
Congress is in full swing with the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriation process. Since USAID Administrator Mark Green testified in April, Congress has held a hearing with Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, who testified on the FY2019 budget for HHS. This week, Congress will hold hearings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who will testify on the FY2019 State Department budget. Congress is preparing for markups for appropriation bills which are expected to begin in June.
Appropriations Mark Ups
The Appropriations committees are determined to get the budget process back on track. Senate Chair, Richard Shelby (R-AL), and House Chair, Hal Rogers (R-KY), would like the appropriations process to return to normal, with the 12 appropriations bills brought to the floor and voted on, and there are rumors that the Senate may cancel or shorten their August recess to finish up. The Senate Appropriations Committee announced that the committee will mark up the State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill the week of June 18 and the Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) bill the week of June 25. Despite the motivation to stay on track, there are some who believe that Congress will still need to pass a Continuing Resolution for FY2018 through the midterm elections. Since President Trump has signaled his unwillingness to sign another omnibus during his term, the bills may need to pass as standalone legislation, or as several “minibuses” (several appropriations bills grouped together).
HHS Secretary Azar Testifies on FY 2019 Budget Request
In early May, Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), testified in front of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations subcommittee on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget Request for HHS. The two-hour hearing mainly focused on U.S. domestic health priorities. In Secretary Azar’s opening statement, he highlighted global health security and stated that “one of the most effective ways to protect Americans from the threat of infectious diseases is to enable other countries to follow through on their own commitments to contain and respond to disease threats.” During the hearing, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) advocated for continued funding for the CDC’s Center for Global Health, stating that, “the funding is necessary, as seen with the Ebola outbreak, which had huge consequences on Americans.”
Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to Testify on Fiscal Year 2019 State Department Budget
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will testify in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, May 23, at 9:00 am and before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, May 24, at 10:00 am. This is Secretary Pompeo’s first appearance in front of the committees since he was sworn in.
Senate Webcast link: https://tinyurl.com/sfrchearing
House Webcast link: https://tinyurl.com/hfachearing
Ziemer Departs National Security Council
Also in early May, Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer was let go from his position as the head of global health security on the White House’s National Security Council (NSC). His departure came a day after the WHO declared an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition to Ziemer’s departure, the global health office in the NSC was folded and staff shuffled into other offices. Although U.S. officials have stated that the United States remains committed to the Global Health Security Agenda, the timing of Ziemer’s departure, along with the proposed rescissions to Ebola funding and the new outbreak, has many worried. In a Huffington Post article, GHC Executive Director Loyce Pace stated, “We really need a strong leader in place from the U.S. who will help coordinate an interagency response and can really provide that kind of assurance and contribute to the progress made in global health security.”
In addition, Congressmen Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Ami Bera (D-CA) sent a letter to the White House expressing concern that the administration is retreating from is commitment to global health security. Read the letter.