Senate panel advances $49 billion bill funding State Department

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced a $49 billion bill that would fund the State Department and USAID in fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1.

In a 27-3 vote, appropriators advanced the bill, which provides $2.8 billion less than current levels and $5 billion less than President Obama’s request.

“They have done a good job,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said about her colleagues that wrote the bill, but she said Congress needs to pass a new budget deal that relieves sequestration.

“I think it’s very clear we do need more resources to protect U.S. interests around the world,” she said.

{mosads}Republicans, however, blocked a Democratic amendment to boost funding because it would have breached spending caps.

The bill, whose text will be released after the markup, doesn’t appear to include language that would block Obama’s new policy to open a U.S. embassy in Cuba this month. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the bill, said last December he would seek a way to block funding for the embassy.

“On the Senate side, I’m not so sure we have all Republicans where I’m at in terms of not establishing an embassy,” Graham, who is running for president, told reporters earlier this week. “I don’t know if the votes are there on our side, quite frankly.”

In response to revelations that Hillary Clinton operated a private email server while she was secretary of State, the bill prohibits funds from being used to support such servers at the State Department and USAID.

The bill requires both agencies to use funds for “proper records management” and to submit a report to the Comptroller General on agency efforts to comply with federal laws, regulations and policies.

Central American countries including Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador would receive a total of $675 million of aid under the administration’s Alliance for Prosperity Plan.

The money would cover “security, economic development and power supply,” said Graham, who added that he’s been working with Vice President Biden on these efforts following last summer’s crisis at the border involving tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States illegally.

Embassy security efforts are fully funded in the bill, which also reinstates a funding account to provide a framework for a U.S. response to Russian aggression.

Similar to the House’s version of this spending bill, the Senate’s includes restrictions on assistance for the West Bank and Gaza and restrictions on assistance to the Palestinian Authority. The bill tightens certification requirements for the Palestinian Liberation Organization because of Palestinian efforts to seek a case against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

The bill limits money for a climate change fund, which would be made conditional on congressional approval. It also provides funding for the Export-Import Bank but doesn’t reauthorize it. The fund’s charter expired at the end of June.

A rider was also included that would prevent the government from supporting foreign nongovernmental organizations that promote or perform abortions.

Tags Barbara Mikulski Hillary Clinton Lindsey Graham

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