Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), co-chair of the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee, has called on organizations to submit letters in support of the International Affairs budget. Murray, a strong advocate for global health spending and foreign assistance generally, hopes to utilize the organizational letters to show her colleagues the broad support for U.S. humanitarian investments abroad. The Infectious Diseases Society of America submitted one such letter Friday.
During the deficit reduction negotiations currently underway, foreign assistance is especially vulnerable to cuts because it has been lumped together with Defense and Homeland Security to shoulder half of the deficit reduction counts in the first of two rounds of about $1 trillion in reductions. Members of Congress and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta have been vocal about protecting the defense budget, but little has been heard in support of the foreign assistance portfolio.
Negotiations are also underway to determine how Congress will finalize the fiscal year 2012 budget. There is speculation that they might bundle the funding bills together in several different bills. Global health advocates are weighing in in support of the Senate funding levels, which are insufficient but nevertheless specify funding for each of the global health programs at close to current spending levels and maintain funding for the Global Fund to fight HIV, TB and Malaria, which is threatened with a loss of at least $300 million in the House funding bills.