Budgets Just Got Interesting

By Stacie Murphy, Policy Director

Donald Trump infuriated Republican leaders yesterday when he suddenly announced his support for a short term deal to fund the government and raise the debt limit. The funding deal, called a continuing resolution, will fund the government for a three months at current levels.

Continuing resolutions are a way of preventing a government shutdown when Congress hasn’t quite gotten its act together enough to be able to finish the next year’s budget before the end of the current fiscal year—September 30th.

Both chambers are working on their budget bills, though, and the last couple of days have been big ones for international family planning.

Back in July, I wrote about the House version of the State Department/Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (SFOps) funding bill. It was awful: cut funding, codified the Global Gag Rule, banned US funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The whole nine yards.

Amendments to fix those problems failed in committee.

Cut to today. The bill is now up for a floor vote. Family planning advocates attempted to offer their amendments again, but weren’t allowed to do so. So that’s that.

Bottom line: The House bill sucks, and it’s not going to get any better.

But.

But.

This morning, the Senate Appropriations Committee took up its version of the bill, and the outcome was a little different.

While the underlying Senate bill wasn’t all that different from the House version, the makeup of the committee was—the two Republican senators most supportive of family planning, Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK)—are both on the committee.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) offered an amendment that would:

  • Restore bilateral funding for international family planning to $585 million;
  • Strike the Global Gag Rule and insert language from the Global HER Act to prevent any president from acting unilaterally to reinstate it; and
  • Allocate $37.5 million for UNFPA (the amendment stated that funding not made available for UNFPA should go to Global Health Programs for FP, MH and RH programs)

The Shaheen amendment passed 16-15. Both Sens. Collins and Murkowski voted yes, along with all Democrats except for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who joined the other Republicans in voting no.

This outcome sets up an interesting scenario. Assuming the bill passes the full Senate (it should, if it gets to a vote), we’ll have two bills with opposing stances on international family planning that will have to be reconciled before there can be a final budget vote.

December should be interesting indeed.

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