Congress Reaches Agreement on a Two-Year Budget Deal
In late July, U.S. Congressional leaders and the White House came to an agreement on a two-year deal that would suspend the debt ceiling until July 31, 2021 and lift spending caps on discretionary spending, avoiding automatic spending cuts imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. The 2019 Bipartisan Budget Agreement Act paves the way for Congress to finish work on the FY 2020 appropriations bills.
The 2011 Budget Control Act will expire after this deal, so this will be the last time Congress will need to overrule the austere spending caps in the near future. Sequestration, or automatic cuts to all defense and nondefense programs, was triggered if these spending caps were not exceeded. The two-year deal also means that a budget resolution will not need to be adopted during the 2020 election year.
The budget deal raises spending caps by $324 billion over the next two fiscal years, with discretionary spending rising from $1.32 trillion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 to $1.37 trillion and $1.375 trillion in FY 2020 and 2021 respectively. It is expected that Congress will use the increase in nondefense spending to fill existing funding gaps for programs such as the 2020 census, so the FY 2020 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill is unlikely to see a huge increase over FY 2019.
In addition, given that the House Appropriations Committee marked up all 12 of its appropriations bills earlier this year (10 of which have passed on the House floor), the House will need to adjust funding in both nondefense (a cut of about $15 billion) and defense accounts (and increase of about $5 billion) to accommodate the new spending levels. Moreover, Congress will not be able to use partisan policy language, or controversial provisions, in the individual appropriations bills. The Senate began work on allocations for the individual spending bills last week, but numbers will not be publicly released until after the August recess, at which point the chamber will begin work on the bills.
Just before leaving Washington, DC for the August recess, the House passed the budget deal 284-149, with a majority of Republicans opposing it despite the support of President Trump. The Senate passed the legislation 67-28 this past Thursday before recessing for the month. Some members of Congress have expressed concerns over the high spending limits, which pushes the national deficit to $1 trillion. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation into law soon.
Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Ebola Outbreak in DRC
On July 24, the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held another hearing on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Senior agency officials from the Department of State, USAID, and the CDC appeared before the committee to provide an update on the outbreak and the response.
The second largest Ebola outbreak in history has now passed the one-year mark, and according to Dr. Mitch Wolfe, Chief Medical Officer at CDC, now encompasses “25 health zones in the DRC… [and] a substantial number of cases were acquired in health care settings.”
Marcia Bernicat, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State, testified that, “The risk of Ebola spreading to additional areas of the DRC or neighboring countries remains high…[and] ending this outbreak is not only a global health security priority, it is a U.S. national security priority.”
On the same day of the hearing, USAID announced an additional $38 million would be made available for the response, including $15 million for WHO. This brings the total U.S. response to $136 million.
Engel and McCaul Introduce Global Fund Resolution
Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced the first ever resolution on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in late July. The resolution, H.Res.517, reaffirms the United States’ commitment to the Global Fund, sending a positive signal to other donors ahead of the Global Fund’s sixth replenishment in October. The House earlier this year approved a $1.56 billion contribution in its FY 2020 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill. A similar resolution is expected in the Senate after the August recess.
This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Manager, Policy & Advocacy.