Public/Global Health

House spending bill counters Trump threat to cut WHO funding

A spending bill released by House Democrats on Sunday would provide funding to the World Health Organization following President Trump’s threat to withhold U.S. contributions.

The annual spending bill, which is slated to be marked up by the House Appropriations Committee this week, rejected a slew of major requests from Trump to cut money for international and foreign policy programs.

Trump has accused the World Health Organization (WHO) of kowtowing to China and blamed it for moving too slowly to raise the alarm as the coronavirus spread. Trump’s critics have accused him of trying to deflect from his own failures in containing the virus in the U.S. by making the WHO a scapegoat.

Trump in May threatened to permanently halt WHO funding without “major” reforms.

The number of new COVID-19 cases has spiked in the U.S. in recent days, even as other major countries in Asia and Europe have succeeded in flattening the curve and reducing spread.

The House’s $65.87 billion bill comes in at almost 50 percent more than Trump’s request, which sought a cut of $12.7 billion from current levels. Trump asked to cut funding for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development by a fifth.

Nearly half of the $21.2 billion increase in spending is devoted to COVID-19 preparedness and relief efforts around the world.

“This bill rejects the President’s go-it-alone approach to foreign policy and instead reaffirms our strong support for international allies, for reproductive health, climate change, and multilateral assistance, and for long-term investments in development and democracy,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who also leads the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs that will mark up the spending bill before it advances to the full committee.

“We cannot turn inward and expect results. Through this bill, Congress makes the tough decisions and strong investments that protect our national security and repair America’s global standing and commitments,” she added.

The bill’s provisions lifting restrictions on funding from groups that provide information on abortion or advocate for reproductive rights are unlikely to make it through the GOP-controlled Senate.

The Senate’s own appropriations process has been in disarray this year over coronavirus and police reform-related bills. The Senate has yet to outline a schedule for releasing, marking up and passing its own spending bills.

The two chambers must agree on and pass 12 funding bills before the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1 or face a shutdown. Alternatively, they can agree to keep current spending levels in place and punt at least some of the spending decisions past November’s elections.

Tags Donald Trump Nita Lowey WHO

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