We'd worried the President's requested increase in International Affairs funding would be a tempting target for cuts by Congress. It was. Although movement between base and war funding complicates analyzing how funds are allocated, looking at totals gives a sense of the different priorities of the administration, House, and Senate. Looking at the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports for State and Foreign Operations, the committees both cut from the administration’s request but did so to different degrees and in different ways. The House made substantially deeper cuts than the Senate, shaving 11.6% ($6.3B) off of the President’s request, while the Senate cut by a smaller 4.7% ($2.6B). Beyond overall funding levels, the House and Senate agreed on some budget priorities while sharply disagreeing on others.
Notably, both Committees cut deeply into the State Department’s operating costs, each slashing about $2.5 billion, or about 22% of the President’s request, from State’s Diplomatic and Consular Programs account. In fact, this cut accounts for over a third of the House’s $6.3 billion overall net cut and falls only about $50 million short of the Senate’s net cut. In effect, both chambers cut deeply in ongoing expenses and, by comparison, generally spared programmatic funds.
The House and Senate nonetheless starkly disagreed in other areas. While the House was relatively generous to International Security Assistance, cutting it considerably less than average, the Senate cut nearly 20%, or five times its average reduction, from security assistance programs. On the other hand, the House and Senate reversed roles in the areas of Multilateral Economic Assistance. The House made a deep, nearly 25% cut to these funds, particularly in various contributions to international financial institutions, while the Senate created a 13% increase in Multilateral Economic Assistance by meeting or exceeding the President’s request on every single line item in that area.
For all of their disagreements, there were also some areas where the House and Senate agreed that the administration’s request was way off base. They both rejected the administration’s proposal to cut the Democracy Fund appropriation while making total or near-total cuts to debt restructuring programs run by the Department of Treasury, Conflict Stabilization Operations, and the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund.
Considering that there hasn’t been a standalone foreign operations bill since FY 2006, further progress on SFOPs appropriations will probably take place in the context of a consolidated appropriations bill. Nonetheless, with the House and Senate committees disagreeing so sharply with the administration and each other in several areas, it will be interesting to see how these differences are reconciled moving forward.