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House Passes FY11 Budget Bill

The House voted 235-189 on Saturday to pass legislation that “would fund government operations through Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2011, while sharply reducing spending across a wide swath of federal agencies and programs,” CQ reports. “Most spending levels under the bill would be based on fiscal 2010 levels, less eliminations, reductions and rescissions totaling roughly $61.5 billion. The measure would provide $99.6 billion less than President Obama sought for fiscal 2011,” the news service writes (Weyl, 2/19).

“With Congress on a weeklong Presidents’ Day recess, lawmakers will return with just four days to agree on a temporary extension of the stopgap measure now financing the government,” the New York Times reports. “The Democratic-controlled Senate has signaled that it will not consider anything approaching the scale of cuts approved by the House, setting up a standoff that each side has warned could lead to a shutdown of the federal government early next month,” the newspaper adds (Herszenhorn, 2/19).

Inter Press Service reports on how the cuts proposed in the House bill could affect development aid and the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The bill cuts about 19 percent of international affairs accounts, “according to calculations by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and 41 percent to humanitarian aid, according to the State Department,” compared with FY 2010 levels, IPS notes. The bill “is likely to get watered down some” in the Senate, and President Barack Obama has said he would “veto the House’s proposal if it lands on his desk,” the news service writes.

But if major foreign aid cuts do pass, “observers are concerned about the impact this could have on global health and development and also fear a potential ripple effect to other donor countries’ provision of aid if the U.S. reneges on its commitments as a result of these budget cuts,” IPS reports. Helene Gayle, CARE president and CEO, and Don Kraus, CEO of Citizens for Global Solutions, outline some of these concerns in the article, which also includes a sidebar item with details on how proposed cuts would affect each MDG (Muscara, 2/19).

Senators Introduce New Child Marriage Bill

Also on Capitol Hill last week, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) “resurrected a bill intended to battle child marriages overseas that didn’t make it through the House last Congress due to abortion and cost concerns,” The Hill’s “Blog Briefing Room” reports. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) co-sponsored the newly introduced bill.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act would require the federal government to develop an “integrated, strategic approach to reduce, and ultimately end, the practice of child marriage,” according to a release from Durbin’s office, the blog writes. “Child marriage denies these women and girls of an education, economic independence and is the root cause of many of the world’s most pressing development issues – HIV/AIDS, child mortality, and abject poverty,” Durbin said in the release.

The bill “is a strong component of the fight against human trafficking, a despicable crime that occurs both at home and abroad and which perpetuates bonded labor, enslavement, and commercial exploitation,” Brown said in a press release (Johnson, 2/19).