House panel approves bill funding WHO, paring back abortion restrictions

House panel approves bill funding WHO, paring back abortion restrictions
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The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a foreign policy bill that would ensure funds flow to the World Health Organization (WHO) and pare back the Trump administration's abortion-related restrictions on foreign organizations.

The committee approved the $65.87 billion state and foreign operations appropriations bill on a party-line vote of 29-21, after considering several key policy amendments.

The bill dismissed President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE's request to cut funding from the State Department and related agencies by 20 percent.

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The Democratic-controlled House is expected to take up the bill at the end of the month, but some of its most controversial provisions will face opposition in the GOP-controlled Senate.

It rejected a GOP amendment to withdraw funding from the WHO without approval from the secretary of State. Trump said he would defund and withdraw from the public health body, which he blamed for responding too slowly to the coronavirus pandemic. The withdrawal would only go through next year.

"This is not only about coronavirus," said Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyIt's past time to be rid of the legacy of Jesse Helms Helping our seniors before it's too late House approves .3 trillion spending package for 2021 MORE (D-N.Y.).

"The lack of participation in the WHO will affect our progress on polio, our preparations for the next flu season, and even our voice at the table to ensure that the WHO emerges as a stronger organization once we are through the current crisis," she said.

On Thursday, the WHO announced that an independent panel would review its response, as well as those of governments around the world.

The bill would also scale back an abortion-related policy known as the "Mexico City policy," which blocks U.S. funds from going to organizations that provide information on abortions. The committee rejected an amendment to strip out the language, but similar provisions to undo the policy did not survive negotiations with the Senate last year.

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The panel also passed by voice vote an amendment providing up to $255 million in humanitarian and development assistance directly to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The administration ended all aid to Palestinians in 2018. Lowey, who proposed the amendment, said it would strip authority from the secretary of State from suspending such funds.

The bill included $50 million for a Middle East peace-building initiative called the People-to-People Partnership for Peace Fund, which would try to boost Israeli-Palestinian exchanges.

In a time consumed with partisan strife, the markup also included a heartfelt moment of bipartisan goodwill.

Reps. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerHelping our seniors before it's too late House approves .3 trillion spending package for 2021 GOP lawmakers comply with Pelosi's mask mandate for House floor MORE (Texas) and Hal RogersHarold (Hal) Dallas RogersHouse Democrats push for resuming aid to Palestinians in spending bill House panel approves bill funding WHO, paring back abortion restrictions Democrats take aim at Trump's policies on 2021 funding markups MORE (Ky.), the top Republicans on the full Appropriations Committee and the state and foreign operations subcommittee, respectively, offered an amendment to rename a nearly-$1 billion basic education fund after Lowey, who is retiring this year.

"No one can say they've done more to advance the cause of basic education than Nita Lowey, especially for the most vulnerable," said Granger, who lauded Lowey for their years-long friendship and cooperation.

"Her legacy will be a generation of educated girls who have the power to shape their futures and ours," she added.

The committee approved the amendment unanimously and gave Lowey a standing ovation.

The bill is the first of 12 annual spending bills that fund government operations. The committee, which processed all 12 bills through its subcommittees in the first three days of the week, is on a hyper schedule to mark up all the bills by the middle of next week. The Senate has yet to release its own appropriations bills owing to disagreements over additional spending measures.

Laura Kelly contributed.