Washington Memo

The spending bill (H.R. 1473) that will fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 was introduced in Congress today. The bill contains disappointing cuts to international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs, but does not impose any of the damaging policy restrictions (“riders”) sought by House Republicans.

Credit is due to congressional family planning champions and the White House for negotiating a deal that avoids the truly devastating funding cuts and policy restrictions that were previously proposed. The earlier version of this bill that was passed by the House in February (H.R. 1) contained a cut of more than $200 million, enacted the Global Gag Rule and prohibited a U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The spending bill introduced today includes a total of $615 million for international FP/RH programs, including $575 million for bilateral programs of the U.S. Agency for International Development and $40 million for a U.S. contribution to UNFPA.

Although not as large a funding cut as was feared in the wake of the passage of H.R. 1, the $615 million figure represents a $33.5 million—or 5 percent—overall reduction from the comparable FY 2010 level of $648.5 million, which included a $55 million contribution to UNFPA. Nevertheless, the cut to family planning programs for women stands in contrast to the funding amounts allocated to other global health programs which actually enjoy a net increase of $66 million, even after accounting for the FP/RH reduction and a more modest cut to HIV/AIDS programs.

It is important to acknowledge that there is a difference of opinion over the total funding allocation for FP/RH and the size of the funding cut reflected in competing press releases by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. A close examination and correct interpretation of the text of the draft bill and by using the comparable base for calculating the size of the cuts, the difference in the numbers being circulated can be reconciled, as we have done above.

The FY 2011 omnibus spending bill is scheduled to be considered on the House floor tomorrow. The Senate will then take up the House-passed bill. Congress needs to enact the spending bill and the President must sign it before the current continuing resolution that is keeping the U.S. government running expires at midnight on Friday.

Please stay tuned for further developments and greater detail on the provisions within the bill as they become available.