Endgame Negotiations Set to Commence—How Will Family Planning Fare in FY 2014?

While it is too early to tell what the specific implications may be for international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) funding and policy, yesterday’s Senate passage of a two-year, bipartisan budget agreement (H.J. Res. 59) sets the stage for the negotiation of final fiscal year 2014 appropriations legislation.  The relaxation of sequestration and the inclusion of additional funding for non-defense discretionary programs could bode well for international affairs programs, including overseas family planning.

Since the 16-day government shutdown ended in October, the federal government has been operating under a “continuing resolution,” which will keep the government running at FY 2013 funding levels through January 15th.  Fortunately, there appears to be no appetite for another disastrous shutdown, so the FY 2014 appropriations process is likely to be concluded in January—one way or another, ideally with the passage of an omnibus spending bill packaging a number of individual appropriations bill.

The leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees have already started discussions to set new top-line allocations for the 12 subcommittee bills.  Assuming that the amount of overall funding allotted to the State Department-foreign operations appropriations bill is closer to that used by the Senate committee in approving its version back in July, the likelihood that FP/RH funding will stay at about current levels and remain under existing policy restrictions increases.

As you may recall, the respective versions of the House and Senate bills are mirror images of each other on family planning.  On July 24th, the Republican-controlled House committee approved a bill that includes dangerous funding cuts and destructive policy “riders.” These included reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule and a prohibition on a U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  The bill places a ceiling on funding for FP/RH programs at $461 million—a  cut of $139 million from current levels (see funding chart below).  The next day, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a vastly superior and diametrically opposed version of the bill. It proposed dramatically higher funding and more constructive policies, such as a permanent legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule and expanded exceptions for abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers.  The committee-approved Senate bill calls for total funding of $669.5 million, including a $39.5 million contribution to UNFPA.

In the last three fiscal years, the final legislation roughly split the difference between the two bills on FP/RH funding and eliminated all new policy provisions, whether supportive or hostile to family planning.  We could see that outcome again, particularly since Senate appropriations champions may end up in a slightly stronger negotiating position as a result of the budget deal.

So how will a final FY 2014 funding level compare to the FY 2013 number?  In reviewing the foreign assistance dashboard that tracks the U.S. government’s international affairs spending, the “actual base” appropriation for FY 2013 for international FP/RH, both bilateral and multilateral, totaled $610.4 million.

While FY 2013 funding is $28 million lower than FY 2012 as a result of the sequestration process mandated under the Budget Control Act, the percentage cut to FP/RH funding was slightly less than the 5 percent cut applied across-the-board to discretionary federal programs. This was due to adjustments made to the funding formula in the continuing resolution that provided some measure of relief to global health programs, including FP/RH.  In other words, FP/RH funding fared slightly better under sequestration cuts than almost all other discretionary federal programs and was not specifically subjected to a larger reduction for political reasons.

And that is good news in the reality of today’s budgetary and political environment, sad to say.

INTERNATIONAL FAMILY PLANNING & REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH ASSISTANCE

ACTUAL BASE APPROPRIATIONS — FY 2010—FY 2013 &

FY 2014 PRESIDENT’S REQUEST & PROPOSED APPROPRIATED LEVELS

(In Millions of Dollars) FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013 FY 2014 President’s Request FY 2014 House Committee-Approved FY 2014 Senate Committee-Approved
Global Health Programs Account 528.6 527 528.8 528 534 565
Economic Support Fund 60.7 57.8 72.5 49.2 63.4 65
Assistance to Eastern Europe &  Central Asia (AEECA) 9.8 10.8 7 0
MENA Incentive Fund 0 0 0 1
TOTAL, bilateral FP/RH 599.1 595.6 608.3 577.2 598.4 461 630
U.S. Contribution to UNFPA (IO&P) 51.4 37 30.2 33.2 37 0 39.5
TOTAL, bilateral & multilateral FP/RH 650.5 632.6 638.5 610.4 635.4 461 669.5

Note:  Data for FY 2010-2013 appropriations for international family planning and reproductive health programs is derived from the U.S. government’s foreign assistance dashboard.

Funding levels in the table are “actual base” appropriations and are the final levels negotiated between the executive branch and the Congress under the so-called 653(a) process, referring to the section of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 requiring the President to notify Congress of each country and international organization being provided U.S. funds by category of assistance within 30 days of enactment of an appropriations bill.

Given the implementation of sequestration under the FY 2013 continuing resolution, using the “actual base” appropriations number is probably the only way to find comparable data over the last several years to understand the funding trend line over time.