Foreign Ops Funding Bill Includes Measures Targeting Trump’s ‘Policy of Protecting Life’

Patrick Goodenough | May 15, 2019 | 4:23am EDT
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Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chair of the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

( – The Appropriations Committee in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday will consider a draft bill on foreign affairs and aid funding – including contributions to the United Nations – that provides $13.7 billion more than President Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget request.

The $56.4 billion bill, which was approved last week by the Appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, represents a 32-percent increase over the president’s FY2020 request of $42.7 billion. That includes an 87.3 percent increase in the amount he requested for contributions for peacekeeping missions – $2.128 billion compared to the requested $1.136 billion.

Beyond the numbers, the funding bill also contains several specific measures opposed by Republicans, relating to issues such as abortion around the world and U.N. global warming initiatives.

Earlier, a Republican committee member warned that unless partisan measures targeting “the president’s policy of protecting life” were removed, the bill stood no chance of passing.

Significantly, the bill includes legislation called the Global Health Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act, which seeks to permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy.

Demonstrators rally in front of the White House on March 29, 2019 to demand an end to the Mexico City Policy, which critics call the ‘global gag rule.’ (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Reagan-era measure, recently strengthened by the Trump administration, targets funding for non-governmental organizations that promote or perform abortions abroad, as well as funding for NGOs that give money to other NGOs that promote or perform abortions.

The Global HER Act, introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) last February, has 171 co-sponsors, all Democrats. The Senate version, introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), has 46 co-sponsors, including Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Me.)

Lowey chairs both the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee and the full committee, and will be presiding over Thursday’s mark-up.

The draft funding bill also provides for $55.5 million for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which Trump defunded in 2017 over reported links to China’s coercive birth-limitation policies.

Another provision expected to draw GOP opposition is the removal of a prohibition of U.S. funding for the Green Climate Fund, a major U.N. global warming initiative which Trump also defunded in 2017.

The bill furthermore prohibits the use of funds to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. (The administration last August lodged formal notification that the U.S. was pulling out of the accord, although the actual withdrawal process takes at least three years.)

‘Elections have consequences’

When the subcommittee considered the bill last week, Lowey said the legislation “rejects the administration’s unacceptable, irresponsible fiscal year 2020 requests and reaffirms strong support for reproductive health, climate change, and multilateral assistance.”

Committee member Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) praised provisions which, she said, reverse the administration’s “brutal attack on women’s reproductive health and rights.”

Ranking member Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) praised some elements – such as support for U.S. allies in the Middle East, and for embassy security – but said it was “a shame that these types of programs are undermined by partisan policy riders that will end any hope of support for this bill from both sides of the aisle.”

“The sweeping measures included in the bill to overturn the president’s policy of protecting life and global health go well beyond what was done previously,” he said. “Unless these provisions are taken out of the bill, Madame Chair, it has no hope of becoming law.”

Rogers also questioned the wisdom or putting forward a bill with topline numbers that would not win the support of the House and Senate, or the administration.

Among other things, the bill adds funding to USAID ($1.690 billion), the Peace Corps ($425 million), and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or PEPFAR ($5.93 billion).

The PEPFAR funding includes $1.56 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and reiterates a longstanding U.S. commitment to continue to provide 33 percent of the fund’s budget. The administration’s proposed budget sought to reduce that commitment to 25 percent.

When the administration presented its State and Foreign Operations budget request in March, Democratic leaders were quick to label it “dead on arrival” in Congress.

Doug Pitkin, director of the State Department’s Bureau of Budget and Planning, told reporters at the time that the proposed budget includes reductions in programs which the administration “believes are either a lower priority or perhaps are not the best use of taxpayer dollars.”

He said the administration was continuing to ask for smaller amounts for contributions to international organizations than Congress has approved, “as an effort to try to drive greater burden-sharing among those organizations.”

The Better World Campaign (BWC), a group that “works to foster a strong relationship between the U.S. and the U.N.,” was critical of the budget proposal, and is praising the draft bill.

“This legislation embraces the principle that the United States cannot go it alone in stamping out extremism or eradicating disease – we need the UN as our partner,” said BWC president Peter Yeo.

“Elections have consequences,” commented U.N. Dispatch managing editor Mark Leon Goldberg, whose site is sponsored by the United Nations Foundation.

“This was the first budget drafted by the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee in which Democrats held the majority and the result was increased funding for the United Nations.”

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