The Next Budget Battle: 3 dates to keep in mind

As you may have read, the House of Representatives passed legislation on New Year’s Eve to address the “fiscal cliff,” clearing the way for the President to sign it into law. While the economy was spared the worst through this deal, Congress and the President have set the stage for an epic budget battle in late February. Three key dates are approaching that could spell trouble for programs that work to protect the world’s poorest:

1. Mid-February or early March:  The US debt limit must be raised.

2. March 1:  If a deal is not reached, the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) must order the “sequester” – automatic spending cuts that will slash funding for nearly all government programs.

3. March 27: FY13 funding runs out and Congress must pass another continuing resolution (CR) or an omnibus appropriations bill.  Failure to do so would lead to a government shut-down.  However, enacting a year-long CR may have serious negative consequences for global health programs since the FY13 State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill will very likely fund these programs at a higher level than FY12.

It’s easy to see how these political fights can have real-world implications.  Implementing the sequester alone would put the world’s poorest at even greater risk. The March 1st sequestration would deliver an 8.2 percent cut to the International Affairs Budget. While we can’t anticipate exactly how the cuts would be implemented at the program level, cuts of this magnitude inevitably would impact programs on the ground, deepening over time.

If this happens, HIV/AIDS treatment for 276,500 people would not be available, potentially leading to 63,000 more AIDS-related deaths and 124,000 more children becoming orphans. Approximately 2.2 million fewer insecticide-treated malaria nets would be procured, potentially leading to nearly 6,000 deaths. And 3.6 million fewer people would receive malaria treatment. About 690,000 fewer children under age 5 would benefit from US nutrition programs and suffer decreased nutrition, many of them facing irreversible developmental damage as a result.

What’s worse – the long-term impact of sequestration would also be applied through FY2021 — leading to continuing deep cuts each year. The cumulative impact of the sequestration will force Congress and the President to make tough decisions on spending.  Those choices would likely put at risk the significant gains the world has made in fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and increase the number of people living in extreme poverty.

How can you help? Let your members of Congress know that you care about these programs by sending them a letter, then watching and sharing ONE’s new video series on US foreign aid – which shows how real, everyday Americans like you can ensure these programs are preserved and protected.