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Congressional Budget Resolutions Show US Commitment to World's Poorest

Flickr: Daniel Mennerich

Back in February, Global Citizen broke down the 2,000 pages of convoluted numbers that make up President Obama’s national budget request for FY17. Back by popular demand, here’s our take on Congress’ rebuttal and why we’re feeling more optimistic than ever.

To no one’s surprise, writing and agreeing on a budget for the coming fiscal year is a demanding, all-consuming, year-long task. The process starts in early February when the President submits his/her budget and ends (hopefully) on October 1st when the fiscal year begins. The months in between are filled with Appropriations Committee meetings, resolutions, and report language wherein Congress is responsible for producing a budget that we can all get behind.

On June 22nd and 28th, the US House and Senate Appropriations Committees released their respective yet similar State and Foreign Operations Bills. Global citizens are particularly invested in the funding fight for State and Foreign Operations because that’s the hard-won money that translates to meaningful action in tackling our world’s greatest challenges.

As a refresher, when President Obama announced his recommendation, Global Citizen and the rest of the development community celebrated his support for lifesaving vaccines and polio eradication, but expressed concern over proposed cuts to critical programs expanding access to clean water, safe sanitation and global education. Looking forward to the release of Congressional budget recommendations, Global Citizen called on the Appropriations Committees to be bolder and demonstrate just how bipartisan and urgent the issue of global development is.

In its markup, the US Senate Committee on Appropriations writes, “the measure supports global health programs to help address the needs of the world’s poorest populations.” Congress is taking action to lead the world in the fight to end extreme poverty, and to explain, let’s take it issue by issue.

Maternal and Child Health

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s recommendation of $814.5 million and the House Appropriations Committee’s recommendation of $997 million toward maternal and child health programs serve as a renewed commitment to moms and kids. Congress gets it. When we improve the world’s health, we improve the world economy. Positive reinforcement does wonders for global health goals.

Polio Eradication

Continuing the trend of commitment to global health, Congress exceeded President Obama’s request for polio eradication efforts. Recommending “a total of not less than $59 million for polio eradication efforts, including not less than $7.5 million for programs for Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Congress will maintain funding in fiscal year 2016. In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved efforts to provide the president’s request of $174 million, $5 million more than last year, for polio eradication programs through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Polio is 99.9% eradicated due in large part to the funding provided by US programs since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. Maintaining funding will keep the world on track to eradicate that last .1% and see polio through as the second ever disease to be fully eradicated.

Clean Water and Safe Sanitation

Before we get to the numbers, the magnitude of the water and sanitation crisis must be reiterated. One out of every three people worldwide lacks access to adequate sanitation, and as the country prepares for a new administration, global citizens must call on the next president to prioritize water and sanitation programs. Though the Senate Appropriations Committee’s recommendation of “$400 million for water, of which $145 million for Africa, $14 million for latrines in Africa and Asia” is more reassuring than President Obama’s request to cut the FY16 budget for water and sanitation in half, it is not a sufficient response to the 780 million people lacking access to clean water.

At the end of 2010, the Global Millennium Development Goal target for drinking water was met, improving drinking water for 91% of the world’s population. By reminding our Congressional representatives of the urgency of the water and sanitation crisis, global citizens can ensure that everyone has access to clean water and sanitation by 2030.

Global Education

The House’s State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Committee told the world that it supports the fight to get every child accessible education by recommending an increase of $5 million totalling a $75 million recommendation for the Global Partnership for Education. Since 2002, the Global Partnership for Education has enrolled 22 million more children in primary school, and Congress is showing no sign of holding this triumphant effort back.

Big takeaway? The Senate and House Appropriations Committees are making considerable strides toward overcoming the world’s greatest challenges. When national trends are leaning toward reclusion, it’s encouraging to see efforts for unified global change reflected in the Congressional budget resolutions.