Advocacy Update ~ May 7, 2018

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

White House to Send Rescission Proposal to Capitol Hill

The White House is expected to send a “special message” to Capitol Hill today with its “first round” of proposed rescissions. This first package is expected to rescind, or cancel, unobligated funds from fiscal years prior to FY 2018. The package could include about $11 billion in rescissions, and cuts targeting the International Affairs Budget are expected. Additional rescissions could come later this month. Want to learn more about the rescission process? Check out our Rescission FAQ.

USAID Administrator Testifies on FY 2019 Foreign Assistance Budget, Mike Pompeo Sworn in as Secretary of State

At the end of April, Mark A. Green, USAID Administrator, testified in front of the House and Senate State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) Appropriations subcommittee on the FY 2019 Foreign Assistance Budget. Across both chambers, members did not hold back on their concerns with the cuts proposed in the President’s FY 2019 Budget Request. Chairman of the Senate SFOPs subcommittee, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said that the budget was “dead on arrival.”

In his opening statements, Administrator Green testified that the U.S. would continue to lead in humanitarian assistance and will look to grow its support in democracy and governance. He noted that the FY 2019 budget request is $1.3 billion more than requested in FY 2018. During both hearings, several global health issues came up such as Family Planning and Reproductive Health (FP/RH); Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH); and Global Health Security.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked about the 50% to cut to the family planning account and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called out the administration’s “outmoded policies” for women and girls, saying that funding decisions should be based on evidence. In response to both of the Senators’ points, Administrator Green said that the U.S. supports a wide-range of family planning methods and that  FY 2019 includes a request for $302 million for FP/RH (FP/RH was zeroed out in the FY 2018 President’s budget). He added that “voluntary family planning is an important part of women’s health and empowerment”.

In the House, Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) also asked questions on FP/RH. Representative Lowey questioned if expanding Mexico City Policy (MCP) to include all global health funding makes it harder to reach the most vulnerable and why more analysis of impact was not done before the expansion. Representative Lee also asked about the $68 million withheld from UNFPA under the Kemp-Kasten designation, and where the money is going and how will those gaps be filled. Administrator Green responded that efforts were undertaken to understand what the expansion would entail and that the next review could provide the evidence to support the expansion.

In addition, Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA) asked for updates on global nutrition programs.  Representative Lowey asked Administrator Green if he could answer whether cutting funding to Gavi, eliminating vulnerable children programs, and cutting Maternal and Child Health program funding by 25%, will harm mothers, children, and babies. In regards to the cuts to Gavi and Maternal and Child Health programs, Administrator Green cited the success of Feed the Future, emphasizing that the U.S. continues to make investments in all of these areas. On program cuts and specific dollar amounts, Administrator Green said that there are tough tradeoffs involved and he readily admits that “we are not meeting every need there is.”

On global health security, Representatives Dent and Grace Meng (D-NY) asked for updates and if it will be prioritized despite the budget cuts. Administrator Green responded that there is a reserve fund for what USAID does on pandemics, and it is a priority and he realizes that need is outstripping resources. He added that he has spent time talking to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and pandemic experts about global health security.

Representative Lowey asked if USAID has determined how a 25% cut to WASH would impact women. Administrator Green stated that he has not seen analysis on impact and emphasized that the amount requested for the WASH program is the largest ever.

Mike Pompeo confirmed as Secretary of State

Last week, Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director, was sworn in as Secretary of State, after a narrow confirmation by the Senate in late April.

Representatives Meeks and Smith Urge Renewed U.S. Commitment to End Malaria

On World Malaria Day, Representatives Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ)senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Co-chairs of the House Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) issued a statement urging members of Congress to redouble the U.S. anti-malarial efforts. Both Representatives recognize the importance of ending malaria, and while U.S. investments have helped to make significant progress, the number of malaria cases around the world are still high, and we run the risk of rolling back progress.  Read the statement here.