Legislative and policy-related news from D.C., Olympia, and our members
Welcome to the Global Washington Policy Update. Each month we post updates about our policy work, national global development policy news, our blog and legislative index.
Featured Policy News
House and Senate Appropriations Committees Pass Competing International Affairs Budgets
On May 24, by a vote of 29-1, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2013 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill and reported it out of committee. The committee’s budget appropriation is $52.1 billion, a figure which, while $4 billion more than the budget the House Appropriations Committee approved, is still $2.6 billion less than the Obama Administration’s request of $54.7 billion. Most of the shortfall comes from military and economic aid withheld from Pakistan and cancelled funding for the international police training mission in Iraq, not from global development line-items. The next step in both the House and the Senate is floor debate and consideration, but neither chamber of Congress has scheduled floor action for the bill. It seems unlikely that much will happen on either bill before the November 2012 presidential election. The Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2012, after all, was not signed by President Obama until late December 2011. The bill’s delay had necessitated nearly 3 months of temporary appropriations after the FY 2011 budget expired on September 1, 2011. A similar schedule for the FY 2013 appropriations bill seems all but assured. However, the fight for global development aid is not over. When the bills reach the House and Senate floors, major amendments that change them dramatically may still be added. Global Washington will keep you up-to-date on the entire process as it unfolds.
By Sean O’Keefe
Kaiser Family Foundation Survey Highlights Americans’ Receptiveness to Global Aid
Last Month, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the results of a comprehensive survey entitled “U.S. Global Health Policy: 2012 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health” [PDF]. The survey highlighted many encouraging trends, but it also stressed the need for advocates of global development to make a stronger case to the public. First, the survey found that, on average, Americans believe that 27% of the U.S. federal budget is spent on foreign aid. That would be a full one trillion dollars of the $3.796 trillion 2012 federal budget, which would dwarf any other category of government expenditure (even the $700 billion of defense spending). In reality, foreign assistance of all kinds makes up around 1% of the federal budget ($50-$55 billion a year), as the 2012 State and Foreign Operations budget documents [PDF].
Before being informed of these facts, respondents were asked whether the U.S. spends too much or too little on foreign aid. 54% said “too much,” 24% said “about right,” and only 17% said “too little.” After being informed that foreign aid spending makes up 1% of the federal budget, only 24% of respondents said “too much.” 30% said “about right” and a full 36% said “too little.” This suggests that a major public awareness campaign could effect seismic shifts in the public’s opinion about foreign aid.
The survey finds that the American public overwhelmingly supports government funding of international global health efforts (73% in favor), international organizations (71% in favor), and U.S.-based nonprofits (67%). It also finds much less public support for government direct funding of foreign NGOs (42% in favor), religious or faith-based organizations (38% in favor), and foreign governments (23% in favor). Corruption and waste are major fears across the political spectrum. “On average, Americans believe just 23 cents of every tax dollar the U.S. spends on improving health in developing countries ends up reaching people who really need it. The public believes that twice as much money—47 cents of every tax dollar spent on these efforts—is lost through corruption,” says the survey.
As Tom Murphy, Deputy Editor of Healthy Lives and author of A View from the Cave, points out, the study finds a strong correlation between support and age, political party affiliation, and understanding of foreign assistance. Support comes from younger people, those who estimate a lower percentage of the US budget is spent on foreign assistance, Democrats, and individuals who have previously traveled to a developing country. Murphy highlights a Stanford University study that calculates that PEPFAR saved 740,000 lives from 2004-2008, to name just one major recent global health success.
KFF President and CEO Drew Altman summarized the conclusions by saying, “First, global health aid has the potential to be relatively popular even if foreign aid is not…Second, information and public education — to counter misperception — can matter to the level of public support. But third, whether for foreign aid generally or global health more specifically, the ultimate obstacle to greater public support is the need to make the case effectively that aid is not ripped off and makes a difference.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation survey suggests that the public is receptive to increases in development spending, especially for global health programs and programs that demonstrate effective returns on aid expenditures. One danger, though, is that it remains difficult to win public support for local capacity-building efforts and for local NGOs and community organizations in developing countries, which are all crucial for encouraging sustainable development. Overall, however, the survey should give heart to the global development community and inspire it to make its message reach as many people as it possibly can.
By Sean O’Keefe
New Legislation & Major Action
S. 3241 sets forth certain limits and prohibitions on the use of appropriations for specified activitiesfor the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and for other purposes.
Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 417. 5/24/12. No co-sponsors.
H.Con.Res 123 recognizes that: (1) the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is critical to stopping the spread of HIV worldwide, and (2) U.S. leadership in the fight to eliminate pediatric HIV should continue. Expresses support for: (1) providing women with HIV counseling and testing services and scaling up access to services that prevent mother-to-child transmission; and (2) U.S. and international efforts to create a generation free of HIV, to eliminate new pediatric HIV infections worldwide, and to keep the mothers of that generation alive. Calls for greater access to more efficacious antiretroviral drug regimens for the health of women and children living with HIV and as a prophylaxis to stop mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, delivery, and breast feeding.
Referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Foreign Affairs 5/10/12 (17 co-sponsors).
S.Res. 449 asks that the Senate calls on officials of all governments and the competent courts to assist in the safe return of all abducted and wrongfully retained children to the state of their habitual residence, including the return of Noor and Ramsay Bower to the United States.
Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations 5/9/12. No co-sponsors.
H.Res. 632 wishes to praise the Government of Turkey for helping the refugees that escaped from Al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
Referred to the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia 4/25/12 (3 co-sponsors).
Other Policy News
Washington’s Own Dr. Bill Foege, Slayer of Smallpox, Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
By Sean O’Keefe, Global Washington Blog, June 4, 2012
How a passing comment on an old medical test won a $100K Gates grant
By Tom Paulson, Humanosphere, May 11, 2012
David Damberger: What happens when an NGO admits failure
By David Damberger, TEDxYYC, December 2011
Bangladesh tackles ‘hidden epidemic’ of children drowning
By Syed Zain Al-Mahmood, The Guardian, June 1, 2012
Edited by: Megan Boucher