THE ISSUE: The Senate and House recently passed separate budget resolutions containing significant differences in spending levels for fiscal year (FY) 2005. For FY 2005 spending on International Affairs, the President requested $31.5 billion. The Senate budget resolution would increase the Presidents request by $300 million, while the House version would cut it by $4.5 billion. Conferees from both chambers are currently negotiating the differences between the two bills and may reach agreement on the resolution (S. Con. Res. 95) next week.
BACKGROUND: The budget resolution sets the stage for the 2005 appropriations decisions to be made later this year, and sets target amounts for spending in a variety of key areas, including International Affairs. Once a joint budget resolution is passed by the House and Senate, overall allocations for the various accounts, including Foreign Operations, will be set by the chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees. The Foreign Operations account provides funding for many of our foreign aid priorities, including the core development and humanitarian accounts, and the Global AIDS and Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) initiatives.
USCCB/CRS POSITION: On April 20, Bishop John Ricard, Chairman of the bishops Committee on International Policy, and Ken Hackett, President of Catholic Relief Services, sent a letter to members of the Foreign Operations subcommittees of both the House and Senate, outlining our priorities on 2005 foreign aid. These priorities are:
- A $1 billion increase above current spending levels for core development and humanitarian accounts, with particular attention to the urgent needs in Africa.
- $3.6 billion for morally appropriate, comprehensive programs to combat global HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
- $2.5 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), with priority consideration for poverty reduction in the poorest countries.
- Adequate funding for reconstruction and peacebuilding, including $436 million for Sudan. In allocating funds to Liberia, we urge priority attention to basic humanitarian needs, disarmament, and reintegration of soldiers into civil society. We also urge increased funding to address the long-term peacebuilding needs of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- $927 million for Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) and $50 million for Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) to meet the needs of an ever-increasing global refugee population.
- $200 million for debt relief for heavily-indebted poor countries.
- Retention of the Mexico City policy, which prevents our foreign aid program from being misused to subsidize organizations that perform or promote abortions in developing nations, and the Kemp-Kasten amendment that helps prevent U.S. support of coercive population programs.
This year, the conflict in Iraq, economic concerns, budget deficits and other fiscal constraints have put tremendous pressure on Congressional members of the appropriations committees, who will most likely look to scale-back on spending. While this makes for a tough year ahead for our foreign aid priorities, sustained advocacy on behalf of the poor and vulnerable will make a vital difference as funding decisions are made in the next months.
While no action is requested at this time, please look for further updates and action alerts from us on what you can do to help in the fight against global poverty and disease.
For more information: Gerry Flood or Jennifer Holst, Office of International Justice and Peace, USCCB, 202-541-3199; LaVita Strickland, Office of Government Liaison, USCCB, 202-541-3235; Kathy Brown or Tina Roudousakis, Catholic Relief Services, 410-951-7462.