Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A trillion here, a trillion there

Omnibus Appropriations bill
Congressional leaders late Tuesday came up with a $1.014 trillion spending plan for the 2015 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30 (see 1,067-page bill).
Lawmakers slipped hundreds of so-called "riders" into the bill. These are policy instructions telling federal agencies how to spend the money. Some of the riders are related to Cuba.
The 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill, if approved by the House and Senate, would authorize spending:
  • $2,632,529,000 in so-called "Economic Support Funds," money that would be available until Sept. 30, 2016. The bill states: "Funds appropriated by this Act under the heading 'Economic Support Fund' should be made available for programs in Cuba."
  • $130,500,000 toward the "Democracy Fund," to be used "for the promotion of democracy globally." Of the total, $75,500,000 would go to the Human Rights and Democracy Fund of the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and $55,000,000 would be steered to the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance.
  • $726,567,000 "for International Broadcasting Operations, and an additional $10,700,000 in title VIII under this heading is designated for OCO/GWOT pursuant to the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. Of the funds made available under this heading, up to $44,025,000 may remain available until expended for satellite transmissions and Internet freedom programs, of which not less than $17,500,000 is for Internet freedom and circumvention programs. BBG is directed to include amounts planned for Internet freedom in fiscal year 2015 as part of the operating plan required by section 7076 of this Act and to expand upon the planned activities in the Internet freedom spend plan required by section 7078 of this Act.
  • $27,130,000 for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, or OCB. "In addition to the amount provided, funds may be transferred to OCB from Economic Support Fund for the purposes proposed in the Congressional Budget Request, Fiscal Year 2015, for the BBG up to the amount necessary to restore the proposed program reductions. (Editor's note: The BBG's proposed budget for fiscal 2015 was $721.26 million, down from $733.48 million the previous year, according to this document). The BBG is further directed to include in the fiscal year 2016 budget request the full amount required to support the proposed staffing and program requirements for OCB during fiscal year 2016 and to not rely on proposed interagency transfers to maintain program requirements."
  • $4.8 million "for the purchase, rent, construction, repair, preservation, and improvement of facilities for radio, television, and digital transmission and reception; the purchase, rent, and installation of necessary equipment for radio, tele vision, and digital transmission and reception, including to Cuba, as authorized; and physical security worldwide, in addition to amounts otherwise available for such purposes."
  • $47,000,000 for USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives "to support transition to democracy and long-term development for countries in crisis: Provided, That such support may include assistance to develop, strengthen, or preserve democratic institutions and processes, revitalize basic infrastructure, and foster the peaceful resolution of conflict: Provided further, That the USAID Administrator shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations at least 5 days prior to beginning a new program of assistance: Provided further, That if the Secretary of State determines that it is important to the national interest of the United States to provide transition assistance in excess of the amount appropriated under this heading, up to $15,000,000 of the funds appropriated by this Act to carry out the provisions of part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 may be used for purposes of this heading and under the authorities applicable to funds appropriated under this heading: Provided further, That funds made available pursuant to the previous proviso shall be made available subject to prior consultation with the Committees on Appropriations."
  • $20,000,000 "to support programs and activities to prevent or respond to emerging or unforeseen foreign challenges and complex crises overseas."
  • $135,000,000 to the National Endowment for Democracy. Of the total,  "$100,000,000 shall be allocated in the traditional and customary manner, including for the core institutes, and $35,000,000 shall be for democracy, human rights, and rule of law programs."

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