As US nears government shutdown, foreign assistance appropriations bill held up by disagreements over family planning amendment
An amendment to the State Foreign Operations (SFOPS) appropriations bill, which largely funds US foreign assistance, has caused a snag in the fiscal year 2020 final spending approvals. Senator Jeanne Shaheen secured an agreement that the Senate version of SFOPS includes language that would prohibit USAID from discriminating in services provided to individuals on the basis of factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, and political affiliation. At the urging of anti-abortion and faith-based groups, the White House is now raising concerns about the language.
Senator Shaheen says that the language simply requires USAID to comply with existing law on nondiscrimination. The language also contains certain reporting requirements that would require USAID to notify the appropriations committee of instances of non-compliance. Opponents of the language say it could prevent the awarding of USAID contracts to faith-based organizations, effectively 'blacklisting' 'pro-life' and 'pro-family' groups. The language in the House bill is stronger than that in the Senate's and contains a provision that repeals the Mexico City policy. Also known as the 'global gag' rule, the controversial policy prevents the allocation of US dollars to any organization that provides access to, information about, referrals for, or advocacy relating to abortion, even if the US funding is used wholly on other non-abortion-related projects. If that provision had made it into the final bill, it likely would have drawn a veto by President Trump.
The House and Senate are trying to finish negotiations and votes on all appropriations bills before December 20, 2019, when the current continuing resolution, which is funding the US government, will expire.