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Foreign Operations Spending Bill Approved by House Committee

The House Appropriations Committee on June 27 approved, by voice vote, the FY2001 foreign operations spending bill (as-yet-unnumbered).

Overall, development assistance would receive $1.26 billion, an increase of $30 million above FY2000. International family planning programs would be level-funded at $385 million. The bill would maintain current law with regard to an abortion-related restriction on international family planning programs, despite an effort to repeal the restriction.

Under current law, organizations that use their own money to perform abortions abroad or to lobby foreign governments on abortion policy are denied U.S. aid. The President is allowed to waive the restriction, but if he exercises the waiver, the total funds available for international family planning are reduced by $12.5 million. Additionally, the total funding available to groups using their own funds to perform abortions or to lobby on abortion policy is capped at $15 million.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) offered an amendment that would have repealed the current restriction; however, the amendment was defeated by a vote of 26-34. Under the amendment, international family planning organizations would not be subjected to “more restrictive” requirements on the use of their own funds than organizations operating within the United States. Additionally, organizations would not be ineligible for U.S. funding “solely on the basis of health or medical services” provided by the organizations with their own funds, as long as the “services provided do not violate the laws of the country in which the services are provided and would not violate United States federal law if provided in the United States.” Identical language is included in the Senate Appropriations Committee-approved bill (S. 2522).

The committee did approve, by voice vote, an amendment by Rep. John Porter (R-IL) that would prohibit the use of U.S. funds to pay for abortions or to lobby for or against abortion. That policy has been in place since 1973.

The bill also would provide $25 million for the U.S. voluntary contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the same amount as the Senate. UNFPA would be required to keep U.S. funds in a separate account and no money could be spent in China. Additionally, the U.S. contribution would be reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount UNFPA spends in China. The Senate bill does not include the dollar-for-dollar restriction.

The bill also would provide increased funding for HIV/AIDS-related activities. Committee report language urges the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) to increase funding for international HIV/AIDS activities from $175 million to $202 million. Ten million dollars would be provided for microbicide research, $5 million less than the amount provided in the Senate bill. Additionally, the House bill would allow AID to transfer up to $37.5 million to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI). The Senate bill would provide $50 million for GAVI.

During committee action, Members defeated an amendment that would have shifted $30 million from U.S. foreign military assistance to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment activities. The amendment, offered by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), was defeated by a vote of 22-29.

House committee report language also commends the World Bank for its increased attention to the world HIV/AIDS epidemic and requests a report detailing the World Bank Group’s global HIV/AIDS activities.

Committee report language expresses concern regarding the Peruvian family planning program. According to the committee report, “informed-consent problems still persist.” As a result, the committee requests AID to provide biannual reports on its efforts to monitor and improve the Peruvian family planning programs and its efforts to report violations of current law with regard to informed consent.

Like the Senate bill, the House measure would level-fund the AID Office of Women in Development at $15 million. Committee report language commends AID’s work in “monitoring the implementation of AID’s Gender Plan of Action,” and encourages AID to support Women’s Campaign International, which provides political organizing and media training in emerging democracies. Report language also encourages AID to “continue its support for programs that involve women in conflict resolution” and raises concern about the incidence of violence against women in Russia. The report encourages AID to expand its efforts to prevent trafficking in women from Russia.

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