Today, President Obama submitted a broad blueprint of his first budget request to Congress. This marks the start of an important process that will ultimately decide how federal dollars are spent and directed in fiscal year 2010, including funding for America’s efforts to fight global poverty and end deaths from preventable diseases like AIDS and malaria.
In the weeks and months ahead, ONE members will have the chance to play an important role during a critical stage of the budget process. And in the end, if we are successful, we can make sure that more people with HIV/AIDS have access to lifesaving medication, that more bed nets are provided to protect families from malaria, and that more kids living in the poorest regions are given the chance to attend school for the first time.
The President’s budget has designated $51.7 billion for the State Department and other International Affairs Programs. This number represents a $4.5 billion increase over the $47.2 billion that was passed for fiscal year 2009. However, because today’s outline only provided top line figures, we do not yet know how much of it will represent an increase for global poverty reduction programs. ONE is seeking a $4 billion increase for poverty reduction accounts as a positive start in setting a spending trajectory that will enable President Obama to fulfill his historic anti-poverty commitments, which ONE members helped secure during the presidential campaign, including his commitment to double foreign assistance. Since those campaign commitments, the President has continued to articulate the importance of addressing global poverty, including in his Inaugural Address and most recently in his speech to Congress. In the next couple weeks, ONE will work to make sure that these commitments and sentiments are fully reflected in the nuts and bolts of the President’s budget request, which we’ll learn more about in April.
While the President’s leadership is absolutely vital—and today’s news is a great start to the process—it’s also important to remember that this budget request is just that: a request. Congress will examine and consider it, and then use it to build its own budget blueprint. ONE members will have an important role to play at this stage as well, which will happen sometime this spring. As Congress lays out its own budget priorities, we will work to make sure it strongly supports U.S. efforts that save lives, fight disease, strengthen our security and add force to America’s global leadership.
After Congress adopts its own budget framework, it then—finally—gets to work on actually appropriating federal dollars for programs and initiatives. This is the part where dollars actually get doled out—the 12 appropriations bills which are supposed to be enacted into law by the start of the fiscal year on October 1 (although it’s almost always later than that, as evidenced by the fact that FY2009’s appropriations process that is still going on). When we get to this stage likely later this year, ONE members will play another critical role, hitting the phones, sending e-mails and meeting with their members of Congress as critical appropriations amendments are voted upon.
This can seem like a long and complicated—even messy—process, but the several stages of the budget can all be critical points where, with ONE’s issues, lives are saved or lives are lost. Fueled by the power of ONE’s millions of members, ONE looks forward to working with Congress and the Administration so America’s promises to help those struggling against hunger, poverty and disease are strengthened and fulfilled. It will make a huge difference.
-Tom Hart, Director of US Government Relations