White House weighs in on key priorities for fiscal year 2012, including global health

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In an October 19 letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Jack Lew spelled out the Obama administration’s funding priorities for the current fiscal year (FY) across the various funding bills.

The letter contains the following language regarding the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill:

The Senate bill for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs protects key priorities while making difficult choices, such as adopting proposals in the President’s FY 2012 Budget to reduce assistance to countries in Europe and Central Asia with lesser need. The Administration will strongly oppose legislation that decimates vital, bipartisan efforts like global health programs, food security, and global climate change initiatives – all programs aimed at the root causes of instability and insecurity in fragile and failing countries around the world. The Administration also opposes a failure to provide funding for general capital increases at multilateral development banks, which would hamper economic recovery worldwide. The Administration will work with the Congress to explore opportunities where increased transfer authority will provide flexibility to manage this constrained resource level.

The letter also acknowledges the special challenge posed by the grouping of defense, homeland security and foreign assistance for deficit reduction purposes and calls for a balanced approach reflected in the Senate funding bills.

Advocates also were happy to see acknowledgement in the letter of the administration’s opposition to so-called “extraneous provisions” in a number of categories, including those that serve to “undermine human health”—an appropriate reference to provisions in the House funding bills that would ban federal funding for both domestic and international syringe exchange programs.   “The swift passage of appropriations legislation should not be jeopardized by ideological provisions that have no place in funding legislation,” according to the letter.

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