House panel advances $62 billion spending bill for State Department
House Democrats are moving forward with a funding bill to increase the State Department’s budget by more than 12 percent for next year, in line with the spending level sought by President Biden.
In a voice vote Monday night, the House Appropriations subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs advanced legislation that would provide $62.24 billion for the federal government’s foreign policy operations.
The spending measure would increase spending by more than $6.7 billion compared to current levels.
“This bill demonstrates the resurgence of American leadership in the world at a time when it is critically needed,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the subcommittee chair, said in a statement. “It addresses urgent global health and humanitarian needs, provides strong funding to address the climate crisis and advance gender equity.”
Funding priorities include $10.6 billion for helping the world recover from the COVID-19 pandemic with humanitarian assistance, rebuilding global public health infrastructure and efforts to prevent future pandemics.
Other provisions would provide resources to worldwide efforts to confront the impact of climate change and reduce global emissions, and promote democracy with like-minded nations to counter China’s ambitions on the world stage.
Aspects of the Democratic-led bill garnered support from Republicans, particularly the components focused on China — with $1.6 billion directed toward U.S. engagement with the Indo-Pacific — and fully funding the $3.3 billion of annual U.S. assistance to Israel as stipulated in the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Obama administration in 2016.
But Republicans objected to other provisions, such as the $1.6 billion for the Green Climate Fund — an international funding mechanism established to battle the effects of climate change. GOP lawmakers argued it was irresponsible to fund such programs as Americans continue to struggle with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
“At a time when American families continue to struggle to make ends meet … proposing such a significant sum of taxpayer funding for international climate change programs, adds insult to injury,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), ranking member of the subcommittee, said during opening remarks of the subcommittee markup on Monday.
Rogers also criticized what he said were weakened conditions for international organizations. That includes contributions designated for the World Health Organization without more forcefully addressing its shortcomings in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, and contributions to the United Nations, with “desperately needed reforms ignored,” Rogers said.
Democrats sparked GOP pushback over efforts to repeal restrictions on U.S. funding for services that provide access to abortion, information about the procedure and services to treat women who have received an abortion.
“Of greatest concern is the removal of the most important condition in any state, foreign, operations bill, that no funds can be used to pay for abortion. This change is unprecedented,” Rogers said.
Democrats have moved to drop the Helms Amendment, a 1973 law that is often attached to foreign operations spending bills and that prohibits the use of funds to “pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”
The State Department appropriations bill also includes a permanent repeal of the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, that was expanded under the Trump administration to prohibit U.S. funding to organizations abroad that have any association with information or services related to abortions.
Democrats argue that the changes, along with an estimated $830 million in funding directed toward women and family planning health services, will provide assistance to an estimated 288 million women worldwide and help prevent approximately 299,000 women deaths that stem from pregnancy-related causes and lack of medical care.
The House Appropriations Committee will take up the spending bill before it moves to the House floor.