Washington Update: Week of September 11

September 12, 2017
Washington Update

Budget and Appropriations 

  • Last week, Congress passed — and President Trump signed into law — a bill that approved $15 billion for emergency aid arising from Hurricane Harvey. The bill included an increase of the debt limit and funds to keep the government running through December 8. 
  • This bill could have devastated funding for international programs without last-minute lobbying by Bread members and other partners. When the package came up for a vote in the Senate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) offered an amendment to offset hurricane relief by slashing USAID's budget. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved to table — or set aside — Paul's amendment. Quick action by Bread members and partners to support tabling the amendment resulted in a strong bipartisan vote of 87-10. Senators who voted 'no' on the motion to table included Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa,), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Jim Risch (R-Ind.). 
  • Last week, both the Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and full Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the FY18 State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) bill. Notably, Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) included strong language in the bill's report repudiating the Trump administration's isolationist policies, stating its "apparent doctrine of retreat ... serves only to weaken America's standing in the world." The report also reaffirmed Congressional support for development and diplomacy. 
  • The SFOPS bill provides $51.2 billion in funding, split between $30.4 billion in base funding and $20.8 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. While this is still below current levels, it is higher than the administration's request and higher than the funds proposed by the House. 
  • The SFOPS bill includes: 
    • $3.13 billion for International Disaster Assistance, which is $311.5 million above the FY2017 level, excluding emergency assistance for famine relief. Funds provided more than the FY2017 level are made available for famine prevention, relief, and mitigation. 
    • $829.5 million for maternal and child health programs, which is equal to the president's request, and includes $290 million for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. 
    • $125 million for nutrition programs. 
    • $1.097 billion for the World Bank/International Development Association. It is the same amount requested by the Trump administration. However, while it is $100m below FY17, it is above the House level of $658 million. 
  • In the House, representatives worked their way through eight appropriations bills, which have now been combined into a larger omnibus bill. However, each portion of the omnibus bill is being debated and amended in turn. 
  • The Agriculture and State and Foreign Operations parts of the omnibus were considered last week. This is the first time in nearly a decade that the House has considered the State-Foreign Operations bill on the floor. Two amendments we supported were passed by voice vote. One was an amendment by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) which restricts funds from going to entities that stigmatize school meal recipients. The other was an amendment by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) ensuring that key fellowship programs at the State Department continue to have the same number of fellows. These fellowships help attract outstanding young people to careers in international development and humanitarian relief. They have been instrumental in bringing more young people onto the front lines of some of the most pressing global challenges of our times, including hunger and poverty. 
  • On the SFOPs portion, we opposed several amendments. One of them, an amendment to defund the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) offered by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), failed by voice vote. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) circulated a letter opposing the amendment, and several members from both parties strongly opposed it. 
  • The House is expected to continue consideration of the omnibus bill on the floor this week. 
  • After a whip count last week, House Budget Chairman Diane Black (R-Tenn.-06) said that the budget resolution won't get a vote on the floor this week. With the House on recess next week, September 25 is the earliest the blueprint could be considered. Some Republicans have withheld support for the budget resolution until they get more details on tax reform. Other Republicans refuse to support the budget resolution because it does not cut mandatory spending enough. 

Immigration 

  • Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program is rescinded. However, the Department of Homeland Security will allow the program to continue until March 5, 2018, without accepting new applications. Dreamers whose DACA authorizations expire before then must re-apply by October 5, 2017, to continue to be protected from deportation for the next two years. Those whose authorization status expires after March 5, 2018 are at risk of deportation unless Congress passes legislation to protect them. 
  • We are urging all members of Congress to co-sponsor and pass a clean version of the bipartisan Dream Act (S.1615, H.R.3440). Since the DACA announcement, House Republicans have jumped on as co-sponsors of the Republican-only Recognizing America's Children Act (RAC, H.R. 1468). The RAC Act also provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers but is not bipartisan, does not have a Senate companion, and is very likely to be attached to some sort of increased border security legislation.

U.S. Hunger and Poverty Data 

  • The US Department of Agriculture released its annual Household Food Security Report on September 6. The number of food insecure households in 2016 was essentially the same as 2015. Overall, household food insecurity has dropped from a high of 14.9 percent in 2011 to 12.3 percent in 2016. 
  • While the downward trend is good news, the rate is still higher than pre-recession levels. Household food insecurity in 2007 was 11.1 percent. 
  • Today, September 12, the US Census Bureau will release their Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage Report and the Supplemental Poverty Measure for 2016. Additional state and local data will be released on Thursday, September 14. We do not expect that the 2016 U.S. poverty data will be markedly different from 2015.


Act Now!
Last week, with the support of President Trump, Congress passed a bill that authorized increased emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey. The bill also raised the debt ceiling and extended government funding through December 8. However, as the House and Senate continue to consider other spending bills, cuts to domestic nutrition and international development programs should be rejected. 
Call (800-826-3688) or email your senators and representative, and urge them to oppose budget cuts to critical programs such as SNAP, refundable tax credits, and international development assistance.

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