House Votes on Resolution Setting Top Line Spending Amount
Spending caps, also known as budget caps, were established in the Budget Control Act of 2011 to limit federal spending and avoid debt. Since then, Congress has voted to lift these spending caps to avoid sequestration, or mandatory cuts to accounts if appropriated funding exceeds the spending cap. The current budget, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, is set to expire, and unless Congress passes another budget deal, it will trigger across-the-board cuts to both defense and non-defense discretionary spending.
Two weeks ago, the House Budget Committee, under Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY), passed legislation lifting the spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary programs, and avoiding sequestration. Unfortunately, lacking the votes to pass the bill, leadership decided to postpone the vote. Instead it adopted a “deeming resolution,” a proposal used when Congress cannot agree upon a budget resolution, which set the overall spending cap at $1.3 trillion, and without specifying how that money would be allocated across spending accounts. With the deeming resolution in place, House appropriators can set funding allocations for individual appropriations bills and begin drafting spending bills.
House and Senate Hearings on the FY20 Budget
Last week, both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and USAID Administrator Mark Green appeared on Capitol Hill for a series of hearings on the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget.
April 9: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations,and Related Programs with Secretary Pompeo
- Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) expressed their disinterest in the President’s proposed budget, which requests a reduction of funding to the International Affairs account by 24%.
- Secretary Pompeo defended the proposed budget stating, “President Trump has made it clear that U.S. foreign assistance should serve America’s interests, and should support countries that help us to advance our foreign policy goals.”
- Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Chris Coons (D-DE) raised concerns over Secretary Pompeo’s recent announcement of an expanded Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, and its impact on maternal and child health. The proposed expansion of the rule would bar foreign nongovernmental organizations from using non-U.S. funding to support health or development work of foreign partners that engage in abortion-related work, even if that organization does not receive U.S. funding and uses separate funding to support abortion-related work.
- “…We currently have a funding gap of $50 million as a direct result of this policy and that translates to 1.4 million fewer women with access to contraceptive services, 600,000 more unsafe abortions, 4,600 avoidable maternal deaths…the data is unmistakable,” said Senator Shaheen.
- Secretary Pompeo stated that the expanded policy “does not reduce health care by a single dollar” and later went on to discuss the severity of the Ebola crisis, “The security situation there is a real challenge…it’s something that the world, I don’t think, has focused on significantly and the numbers I see each week don’t show that we have our arms around it yet.”
- View the hearing.
April 9: House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing with Mark Green
- In their opening statements, Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) both expressed their support of USAID and concern for the proposed budget.
- “Core humanitarian accounts and democracy and governance programs slashed by 40%; maternal and child health programs cut by a quarter; food security, nutrition assistance, basic education all chopped by roughly half…What an ugly picture this budget paints of America,” said Chairman Engel.
- Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) thanked Administrator Green for USAID’s contributions towards addressing tuberculosis and raised concern over frontline health workers’ exposure to diseases like Ebola.
- “One of the reasons I am so keen to tackle tuberculosis is not only can we tackle it, not only is it currently a terrible killer around the world, but third, it’s the stigma that is too often associated with tuberculosis. It attacks the poor and the vulnerable and further marginalizes them from society and to me, that’s an extra tragedy that we need to take on where we can but these technologies create real opportunities,” said Green.
- Representative Ami Bera (D-CA) expressed concern over his communication with implementing organizations who have not yet received USAID funding that is intended to support their work. Administrator Green agreed to work to address this issue.
- Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) mentioned the need for strengthened support around antibiotic resistance stating that “…in Kenya, 90% of people used antibiotics in the last year alone…we’ve lost about 700,000 people to drug-resistant antibiotics.”
- Representative Houlahan, along with Chairman Engel and Representative Bera, stated their concerns regarding the expanded Mexico City Policy and its impact on women’s health.
- Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) reiterated the Chairman and Ranking Members’ sentiments toward the proposed budget. “This year’s request includes a 24% cut to the overall International Affairs budget, 28% reduction to global health, and a 34% decrease to humanitarian assistance…foreign assistance is not charity,” he stated. “We invest in people and countries around the world because it is in our own national interest. Investing in diplomacy and development prevents the outbreak of conflict, it saves U.S. taxpayer dollars, and most importantly, it saves American lives by preventing the deployment of U.S. service members to dangerous parts of the world.”
- View the hearing.
April 10: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing With Secretary Pompeo
- Similar to other hearings on the President’ budget, Chairman James Risch (R-ID) and Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) expressed their concerns on the proposed cuts to the budget for the State Department. Chairman Risch stated that we need vibrant State Department but that it should be structured for the world today and not the past. He emphasized the need for diplomacy to reflect the changing world.
- Ranking Member Menendez said that the President’s budget is a “recurring bad dream,” and said that either the President has no understanding of the U.S. role in the world or has a desire for the U.S. to retreat from the global stage. He also focused on Trump administration policies stating, “…confronting China is not the same as being competitive with China; threatening to cut funding to Central America to deal with poverty and violence is not effective…”
- Members’ questions ranged from China to Venezuela to the recent announcement that the administration would cut aid to the Northern Triangle in an effort to stop the arrival of migrants at the U.S. border.
- View the hearing.
Dr. Alma Golden Nominated to Assistant Administrator
Dr. Alma Golden, who is currently serving as the Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, was nominated by President Trump to the position of Assistant Administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Global Health. Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not yet been scheduled.
Reintroduction of Global Health Security Act
Last week, the Global Health Security Act (bill number pending) was reintroduced by Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH). The Global Health Security Act reaffirms the importance of U.S. leadership in global health security and its commitment to the Global Health Security Agenda. Specifically, the legislation calls for strengthened interagency coordination on global health security issues and addresses the need for a permanent official responsible for coordinating between U.S. agencies during global health crises.
The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Ami Bera (D-CA), Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Rick Larsen (D-WA). Global Health Council and other leading global health organizations endorsed the legislation.
Changes to bill from the previous version include:
- A codification of interagency coordination of global health security by designating a Special Advisor to the President at the level of Deputy Assistant or higher, consistent with the model established during the Ebola outbreak;
- Designating that an employee of the National Security Council serve as chair of the GHSA Interagency Review Council, rather than the “Special Advisor”;
- Adding the Department of Labor, National Institutes of Health, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to the agencies represented on the GHSA Interagency Review Council;
- Giving the chair of the GHSA Interagency Review Council the ability to add other agencies to the Council as appropriate;
- Adding a finding related to President Trump’s National Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism, which was released in December 2018;
- Removing the requirement for the annual report to contain a summary of the strategy as an appendix; and
- Updating dates and timelines.
This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Manager, Policy & Advocacy, and Victoria Rodriguez, Advocacy Associate.