FY15 Appropriations Update: Where Are We Now?


July 14, 2014
Allison Grossman, Senior Legislative Associate

Since the President released his fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget request to Congress in March, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have written and passed their own FY15 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Appropriations bills, which cover the poverty-focused foreign aid accounts for which RESULTS advocates.

So where are we now? To be honest, it's a mixed bag and the immediate next steps are unclear.

First, the big picture:

Based on a deal made in Congress back in December aimed at reducing the deficit, total discretionary spending for FY14 and FY15 was capped at $1.01 trillion. Of that total, just under half, $492 billion, was made available for non-defense discretionary spending, which includes the SFOPS Appropriations bill.

In the House, $42.4 billion was made available for the SFOPS bill, plus an additional $5.9 billion for frontline states and emergencies such as Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, in an account known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The total amount available in the House SFOPS bill was $48.3 billion, which does represent a cut from FY14 levels.

The Senate's overall SFOPS number was actually nearly the same as that in the House, but with one big difference – the proportion going to OCO was significantly greater. The base funding in Senate SFOPS was $39.66 billion while the amount made available for OCO was $8.625 billion. The Senate made these decisions because OCO funding is outside of the overall funding caps; by moving SFOPS base funds to OCO, the Senate was able to avoid cuts to domestic programs (see the introduction of our 2014 legislative handbook for a few more details on this breakdown).

However, the Senate's distribution of funding is alarming. Not only is there less funding available for regular programming in the base account, but because OCO is considered an emergency fund, it is difficult to ensure the funding will be maintained in the next fiscal year. This makes it increasingly challenging to advocate for additional funding.

What does that mean for key poverty-focused foreign assistance accounts?

The full Senate Appropriations Committee passed their SFOPS bill on Thursday, June 19; the House Appropriations Committee followed suit on Tuesday, June 24. In general, the accounts RESULTS supports fared better in the House version of the SFOPS bill. However, it is testament to the power of our advocacy that these accounts came out as strong as they did, given the Senate's smaller base of funding going into the drafting process. But it also means that we must continue to work to ensure at least the House numbers make it through to the final bill.

In our global health accounts, both the House and Senate provided $1.35 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which equaled the President's request.** The House and Senate both exceeded the President's request for Bilateral Tuberculosis programs, though neither chamber reached RESULTS' request of $400 million. The House maintained funding at FY14 levels, while the Senate would cut funds for these critical programs. We see similar trends in the Maternal and Child Health account and the Nutrition account – the House and Senate exceed the President's request but with the House number higher than the Senate number. However, both chambers provided $200 million for the GAVI Alliance, which is critical as we head into GAVI's upcoming replenishment at the beginning of 2015.

On education, the House maintained FY14 levels for Basic Education at $800 million, and included “not less than” $50 million for the Global Partnership for Education – a huge increase over past contributions and the level that the Administration ended up pledging to GPE. The Senate came in much lower on Basic Education, meeting the President's request of $534 million and calling out the Administration's challenges in spending all of the funding allocated for these programs, citing a $1.4 billion pipeline of unspent funds.

The House and Senate bills both include report language on microfinance and the need for USAID funding to reach the very poor – language included, in large part, because of advocacy by RESULTS volunteers. The House language calls out USAID's low use of poverty measurement tools which, the committee noted, “has resulted in insufficient evidence showing USAID's fulfillment of the legal target to reach very poor.” The language recommends USAID increase use of these tools. The Senate report includes similar language encouraging USAID to increase uptake of these tools in order to ensure funds are reaching the very poor.

Here's the full breakdown:

Program

FY2014 Enacted

RESULTS FY2015 request

President's FY2015 Request

House FY15 Bill

Senate FY15 Bill

Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

$1.65 billion

$1.65 billion

$1.35 billion

*Authorizes $1 for every additional $2 from other donors from the “OGSI” in an amount up to $300 million

$1.35 billion

$1.35 billion

Tuberculosis

$236 million

$400 million

$191 million

$236 million

$225 million

Maternal and Child Health

 (including GAVI)

$705 million

($175 million)

$800 million

($200 million)

$695 million

($200 million)

$732 million

($200 million)

$700 million

($200 million)

Nutrition

$115 million

$200 million

$101 million

$115 million

$110 million

Basic Education

$800 million

$925 million

$534 million

$800 million

$534 million

Global Partnership for Education

$40 million

*Contribution announced at the GPE pledging conference

$125 million

$50 million*

*Contribution announced at the GPE pledging conference

“not less than” $50 million

$35 million

Microfinance

$265 million

Include report language to direct microfinance and microenterprise funds to the very poor.

$210 million

$265 million plus language

$210 million plus language

What comes next?

With the impending August recess and the quickly-approaching November elections, we are unlikely to see the SFOPS bills reach the floor of the House or Senate anytime soon. Because of this timing, it appears increasingly likely that Congress will have to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open and funded once the 2015 fiscal year begins on October 1, 2014. This CR will last several weeks or months, giving time for Congress to come back to finalize the full year's budget after the start of the fiscal year. It is unclear if the CR will extend into the new year and new Congress, but the Republican party may have incentive to push budget negotiations until January as they anticipate victories in the November election and the influence that will come with holding additional House and Senate seats.

There are also rumors that Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is considering combining all of the FY15 appropriations bills into one massive “omnibus” appropriations package, which was done for the FY14 budget as well.

No matter how Congress proceeds, RESULTS will continue to seek opportunities to impact the process and to increase key poverty-focused accounts that we support. We'll keep you informed as Congress moves ahead!

 

**RESULTS request for FY15 was in line with the $5 billion over 3 years pledge made by President Obama in December, or $1.65 billion for FY15. However, due to a legislated cap on U.S. contributions, the U.S. may not exceed of one-third of the total Global Fund funding. Unless other donors also increase their contributions this year, the U.S. is unable to contribute any more to the Global Fund in FY15.

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