Congress' Global Health Agenda for 2013

Sally Cowal, Senior Vice President & Chief Liaison Officer, PSI

As we celebrate last week’s inauguration and the 113th Congress’ first few weeks in session, I naturally reflect on the last couple of years. The 112th Congress was full of intense debates, a consuming election and suitably ended with a dramatic, last-minute deal on the fiscal cliff. Thankfully, global health retained strong bipartisan support during even the gravest times of political and economic uncertainty. Looking forward, PSI is encouraged by this new Congress’ potential support of global health programs.

US Congress

The 113th Congress has an incredible opportunity to expand the global health progress of its predecessors. Each congressional member is in a uniquely powerful position to shape the health, and, ultimately, the future of millions of people globally. With Washington increasingly under attack, the 113th has a chance to show the American people how U.S. foreign assistance saves lives with efficient, transparent and cost-effective solutions.

As we usher in global health champions to the 113th Congress, we bid farewell to the congressional leaders who will be greatly missed as we move forward. These fierce advocates continually crossed party lines and traveled to remote and sometimes dangerous locations to understand and represent the voiceless.

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) were staunch defenders of global health efforts and protecting the vulnerable during their tenure. We still mourn the passing of Congressman Donald Payne Sr. (D-NJ) in February of 2012 and hope others can fill the enormous hole he left. Secretary Hillary Clinton’s championing of global health within the State Department and unwavering advocacy for women and girls has set a new bar for gender empowerment. She demonstrated that focusing on women is not only a health issue, but, rather, a necessity for developing countries to succeed.

We are eager to see how new leadership in powerful positions will shape global health moving forward, such as House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) and House Appropriations Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY). Newly appointed Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) will provide critical guidance on some of the most pressing issues facing the world. These members have demonstrated experience and advocacy for the international affairs budget and global health during their time in Congress, and we urge them for continued leadership for foreign aid in these positions.

This Congress will debate continued global health funding levels and foreign aid transparency. We also hope the lesser recognized issues of nutrition, non-communicable diseases and impact investing can be part of the conversation and action over the next two years.

In total, U.S. development assistance consists of less than 1% of the federal budget. Strong global health funding not only protects people in other countries but our borders as well. Significant cuts to development assistance put lives at stake and endanger the economic well-being of the U.S. As the President prepares his FY14 budget request and Congress begins to form its legislative agenda, we urge lawmakers to recognize this and protect the great strides in health and development that we have made.

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