Since the Republican takeover of the House in 2011, advocates have fought with the tenacity of vampire hunters and zombie slayers to successfully block annual efforts by the House to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, prohibit a U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and slash funding for the U.S. government’s international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) program. Like any classic horror movie plot, surviving and living to fight another day is the measure of success in Washington today.

As the election approaches, a final resolution of the fiscal year 2017 (FY 2017) appropriations process remains elusive. All federal programs have been operating at current funding levels and policies under a “continuing resolution” (CR) since the start of the fiscal year on October 1. The short-term CR expires on December 9th. Congress returns for a “lame duck” session after the election to complete any unresolved, high-priority legislative tasks, such as a final FY 2017 spending package, before adjourning for the year.

As it stands now, the respective House and Senate committee-approved versions of the FY 2017 State Department and foreign operations appropriations bill are diametrically opposed to each other in their treatment of FP/RH funding and policy. The House version (H.R. 5912) would suck the life blood out of U.S. FP/RH efforts by capping funding at $461 million or $146.5 million below the current level, reinstating the Global Gag Rule legislatively, and prohibiting a U.S. contribution to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Conversely, the Senate version (S. 3117) would increase funding to $622.5 million, permanently block a future President from reimposing the Global Gag Rule unilaterally, earmark a UNFPA contribution of $37.5 million and seeks to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of US international FP/RH programs

If the past several years are any guide, it is likely that the House blood-suckers will be kept at bay by our Senate defenders and the status quo will be preserved—more or less level funding at about $607.5 million (including a UNFPA contribution) appropriated and no new policy “riders,” either positive or negative, added. This funding level pales in comparison to what advocates deem are the U.S. fair share for global FP/RH needs—at least $1.2 billion per year. In addition, what flat funding really means is that the FP/RH program continues to hemorrhage due to the effects of inflation.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, there is interest on Capitol Hill among pragmatic legislators on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers in negotiating an omnibus spending package and starting the new Congress in January with a clean slate, rather than resorting to another short-term CR. As a result, some Washington seers and soothsayers remain skeptical that Congress can put an omnibus in its final resting place before adjourning for the year. But brainless zombies in the House are prepared to have the federal government stagger along with them for eternity.

You can help ensure that the horrific anti-family planning provisions in the House bill do not become law, whether in an omnibus or CR, by joining our Thunderclap.

The House spending bill is one of the five scariest policies on Capitol Hill for women worldwide. To meet the other four, check out the full Return to a Nightmare on Capitol Hill site.  


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This blog has been resurrected and updated for Return to A Nightmare on Capitol Hill. The original was published by PAI on Oct. 30th, 2014.