WMiconAfter Wednesday’s disappointing House committee markup of the FY 2014 State Department and foreign operations bill, women’s health advocates enthusiastically applaud the actions of the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday in approving a vastly superior version of the bill with proposals for dramatically higher funding and more constructive policies for international family planning and reproductive health programs.

The diametrically opposed versions of the bill sets up a dynamic entering the negotiations to produce a final bill similar to what has been observed the last two years in which Senate champions led by Subcommittee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and their House allies have managed to largely preserve the status quo for family planning and reproductive health funding and policy, but only with great effort.

The committee-approved Senate bill calls for total bilateral and multilateral funding of $669.5 million, including a $39.5 million for a U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  The proposed Senate funding level is $208.5 million—or 31 percent higher—than the comparable amount in the House bill of only $461 million and nearly 15 percent above estimated current levels.


(in millions of dollars)

FY 2012 enacted

FY 2013 enacted

FY 2014

FY 2014

FY 2014

Global Health Programs account




Economic Support Fund




MENA Incentive Fund



TOTAL, bilateral FP/RH






U.S. contribution to UNFPA (IO&P)






TOTAL, bilateral & multilateral FP/RH







In contrast to the House bill that would prohibit any contribution from the United States to UNFPA, the Senate bill earmarks $39.5 million for UNFPA out of the international organizations and programs account (IO&P) without the longstanding, but onerous restrictions on how UNFPA is to administer the funds.  UNFPA is included in an IO&P account restored in the Senate bill along with all of the voluntary contributions to other UN agencies—such as UNICEF and UN Women—zeroed out by House Republican appropriators on Wednesday.

During markup, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) offered the amendment to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule utilizing the operative language of the Global Democracy Promotion Act, introduced as a freestanding bill in both the House and Senate.  The amendment was adopted on a bipartisan vote of 19 to 11, with all Democrats and three Republicans—Senators Collins (R-ME), Murkowski (R-AK), and Kirk (R-IL)—on the committee voting in favor.  The only speakers in opposition to the Shaheen amendment were Ranking Member Graham (R-SC) and Senator Johanns (R-NE).

One other very positive development was the inclusion of a technical change in the statute, proposed in the President’s budget request, to expand the exceptions for abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers to include life endangerment, rape, and incest, making the law consistent with the coverage available to other federal employees and beneficiaries.

New report language also calls for increased investments by USAID in contraceptive research and development in recognition of a need to make available to women in developing countries contraceptives and multipurpose prevention technologies that are “more effective, affordable, and easier to deliver and may also prevent sexually transmitted diseases.”

Neither the full House nor Senate are expected to debate and vote on their respective versions of the bill.  Both Appropriations Committee Chairs have expressed a strong desire to move all 12 subcommittee bills to the floors of their chambers and return the process to “regular order,” but it seems an especially unlikely prospect for the State-foreign operations bill.

The most likely scenario is that Congress will be unable to pass many of the appropriations bills, including the State-foreign operations bill, by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, thereby necessitating passage of a “continuing resolution” to keep the government running until an agreement on discretionary spending can be reached between the President and House Republicans.  Negotiations will then begin in earnest on an omnibus spending package to include any appropriation bill not yet enacted.

Appropriators will need to bridge the wide differences between House and Senate versions of the State-foreign operations bill, not just on international family planning and reproductive health funding and policy, but on a truckload of other issues, not the least of which is the $10 billion disparity in total funding in the respective bills.  The task of the negotiators will not be an enviable one.