Advocacy Update ~ June 17, 2019

House Debates the First of Several FY 2020 Spending Packages

Last Wednesday, the House took up the first of several spending packages to fund federal agencies and programs in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. The first “minibus” is an almost $1 trillion package that includes appropriations for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS); State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs); Defense; Legislative Branch; and Energy and Water.

Debate began on Wednesday afternoon on amendments proposed to the LHHS portion of the bill, with the House staying in session until 4 am Thursday for roll call votes. An amendment proposed by Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) to increase funding for global health security activities at CDC by $5 million was not ruled in order by the Rules Committee, and so was not considered by the House.

On Thursday, the House turned to the SFOPs section, finishing debate on 34 amendments in three hours. However, the House will not begin votes on the amendments until tomorrow (Tuesday) night.

Amendments of note to the SFOPs bill:

  • Floor amendment #89 (Walker) – 34% ($19.1 billion) cut to bilateral economic assistance, which includes global health programs at USAID and the State Department, and independent agencies
  • Floor amendment #98 (Banks) – 14% across-the-board-cut to SFOPs
  • Floor amendment #87 (Grothman) – 2.1% across-the-board-cut to SFOPs
  • Floor amendment #2 (Allen) – 1% across-the-board-cut to SFOPs
  • Floor amendment #78 (Multiple Republicans) – Strikes the requirement that not less than $750 million of Global Health programs shall be made available for family planning/reproductive health
  • Floor amendment #96 (Marshall) – WITHDRAWN; Strikes section 7064 (relating to assistance for foreign nongovernmental organizations), which prohibits permanent removal of the Mexico City policy.

All four of the amendments that would cut funding are expected to fail. Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) stated, “Smart use of global health, humanitarian, and development assistance supports the United States interests, builds greater global stability, and promotes American values. The gentleman’s amendment would not trim, but entirely cut all these investments, including support to 14.7 million people receiving lifesaving HIV treatment, including 700,000 children, 70 million children learning to read with U.S. assistance, 68.5 million refugees displaced by conflict or natural disasters, and 7,200 Peace Corps volunteers serving as excellent representatives of the United States. How are these cuts in our national interest?”

Ranking Member Hal Rogers (R-KY) also spoke out against cuts to foreign assistance, “Across the board cuts is the coward’s way out of making hard decisions. The committee has expertise on the spending policies of the country, and we apply that wisdom and experience and research on what agencies to fund and which ones we should not. The wise selection of spending priorities is what the appropriations process is all about. An across the board cut cuts good programs as well as perhaps some that should be cut.”

The House will vote on the entire spending package sometime this week once debate on amendments proposed to the other portions of the bill is complete.

Reach Act Reintroduced in the Senate by Sens. Collins and Coons

On June 11, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Coons (D-DE) reintroduced the Reach Every Mother and Child (Reach) Act (bill number pending). The Reach Act was proposed to address maternal and child deaths in developing countries, of which more than 15,800 occur each day and are often preventable. Similar to the bill introduced last Congress, the legislation would take steps to end preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths by 2030 by:

  • Scaling up evidence-based interventions;
  • Allowing USAID to utilize financing models where foreign aid is only expended when results are achieved; and
  • Establishing a Maternal and Child Survival Coordinator at USAID.

Read a statement from Senators Collins and Coons.
Read GHC’s statement.

House Hearing Held to Evaluate U.S. Approaches to Eradicating Ebola

On June 4, Admiral Tim Ziemer, Acting Assistant Administrator at USAID, and Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of CDC, appeared before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations discussing the U.S. government’s approaches to mitigate the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Watch the hearing here.

Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA) and Ranking Member Chris Smith (R-NJ) voiced their concerns of vaccine procurement, how the U.S. intends to keep the outbreak from spreading to Goma and surrounding nations, and why the outbreak has not yet been declared an emergency.

In his opening remarks, Admiral Ziemer stated that “in order to contain this outbreak, a broader, more holistic approach is needed.” He went on to discuss strategies supported by USAID and CDC focused on six key areas, including:

  • Improving coordination among the DRC government, WHO, and international partners;
  • Addressing the need for community engagement and local ownership of disease control measures;
  • Working with the UN Ebola Response Coordinator to bolster security information through non-militarized, humanitarian approaches;
  • Implementing operational improvements in the public health response, including strengthening a vaccine strategy;
  • Investigating Ebola readiness in Goma, Butembo, and surrounding countries; and
  • Engaging in a long-term planning scenario for stabilization and development to address the root causes of fragility in the DRC.

Currently, there are over 2,000 cases of Ebola in the DRC, of which there have been over 1,300 deaths. According to Dr. Redfield, a significant amount of these cases have been acquired in health care settings and 109 health care workers have been diagnosed.

The CDC and WHO have administered vaccinations to over 130,000 people in the DRC and surrounding countries. “We do project that we are going to run out of vaccines,” said Dr. Redfield. Soon, the CDC can expect to see a six to twelve-month lag in access to vaccines. Additionally, those who are vaccinated are not entirely protected from Ebola. Although not supported through a controlled clinical trial, “the estimated efficacy of the vaccine is, say, over 85%,” said Dr. Redfield.

Not even a week after the hearing, news that Ebola has spread from the DRC to Uganda, made its way into headlines. This is the first time in a year that the virus has crossed into neighboring territory, infecting three and killing two. In a recent Tweet, Dr. Tedros, Director-General of the WHO, stated that the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee will convene on June 14 to discuss if the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency.

Read Representative Ami Bera’s (D-CA) statement on the spread of Ebola.

Due to the State Department’s ranking of DRC as a Tier 3 country in the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the country may be subjected to sanctions and lose U.S. assistance. To address this, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) recently introduced S.1340, also known as the Ebola Eradication Act of 2019, and Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) introduced similar legislation (H.R.3085), which authorizes USAID to continue to support Ebola eradication efforts in the DRC. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed S.1340 in late May.

 

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

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