Washington, D.C. | May 23, 2012
Tremendous news from the Senate Appropriations Committee, which voted unanimously to recommend an $85 million increase in WASH funding for Fiscal Year 2013!
Advocates for WASH are very pleased with the Committee’s vote on May 23, just two days after the Senate Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations approved a smaller but very welcome increase ($35 million) for WASH, up from the FY 2012 level of $315 million for programs under the 2005 Sen. Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act.
Because of pending negotiations over long-term debt reduction, it is unclear when Congress will enact funding bills for Fiscal Year 2013 (which runs from October 2012 to September 2013). Most likely, Congress will pass a Continuing Resolution in the fall and defer serious decisions about the budget till later in the year, including enactment of appropriations for many departments.
Whatever winds up as the final number will be critical because it will establish a baseline for years to come – Congress is expected to enact some kind of deficit reduction, probably with some automatic cuts over the years, so establishing a solid base NOW will have profound long term impact.
The subcommittee action was expected, with strong support from Subcommittee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Republican Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Subcommittee member (and leading Senate WASH champion) Dick Durbin (D-IL) really pushing for the increase.
We are grateful to all members of the Senate Appropriations Committee for their strong support for WASH. It is now critical for all WASH advocates to send their thanks to these members. They deserve public accolades for their support, and they deserve it now – and prepare ourselves to encourage House appropriators to agree with the increase, and approve $400 million for WASH when the two committees meet to conference the total FY 2013 appropriations bill.
In May, both the House and Senate appropriations committees acted on a range of spending bills, including the State and Foreign Operations budget, which contains funding for US foreign assistance – barely one percent of the federal budget, despite widespread belief among Americans that foreign aid is much, much more. Neither the current pending House committee version (with $315 million for WASH) nor Senate committee version (with $400 million for WASH) have yet gone to the floor – at some point, there will be a conference between the two sides, and we urge House conferees to accept the Senate version.
WASH advocates must also push for the Senate’s bottom-line number for the Development Assistance and USAID’s Global Health Programs accounts to ensure stability of the $400 million appropriation and to avoid the House’s proposed cuts to various other foreign aid sectors.
We believe that the overall foreign aid budget of the US is underfunded, and that USAID programs provide multiple and long-term benefits to the taxpayer. A moderate increase now helps to maintain US influence and complements other US security spending in a time of unprecedented tight budgets.