What's Ahead on the Hill
Congress continues to debate how to keep the government running in the midst of a rollercoaster appropriations process, while at home and abroad global health research and development (R&D) programs struggle to continue their work and simultaneously juggle looming funding reductions.
While the President's budget request for global health programs for fiscal year (FY) 2012 included funding increases in several areas, the outlook for global health funding in Congress is not as promising.
Due to difficult economic times and conflicting priorities between the House of Representatives and the Senate, it seems unlikely that Congress will sustain the levels we saw in 2011 for additional years. The House of Representatives approves of deep cuts in nearly every government program. However, the Senate appropriation levels are much friendlier to global health and to foreign assistance overall, compared with the House levels.
The two chambers must now reconcile the two different versions, while following the spending cap rules required by the new debt reduction law.
In addition to the appropriations activities outlined above, the Congressional Debt Reduction Committee (the 'super committee') also must weigh in on funding levels for the next several fiscal years. It has until November 23 to make its recommendations to Congress for cutting at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
To add yet another factor to this complicated equation, since Congress has (again) failed to complete the appropriations process by the end of the fiscal year, urgent continuing resolution legislation (CRs) have been required to keep the government open until the process is finalized. The CR currently up for debate enacts an across the board rescission of 1.5% from FY2011 levels to all government programs, but contains no other cuts targeted at international development or global health accounts. This is a temporary blessing for important programs that must continue its progress while funding levels are hammered out. It is likely that several CRs will be needed to buy enough time for Congress to negotiate the FY2012 budget.
To read more details about specific global health programs and the appropriations activities in Congress read this piece.