There's some happy news for foreign aid in the new year: the White House appointed nine members to the President's Global Development Council, the US House of Representatives passed an aid transparency bill 390-0, and the fiscal cliff deal postpones across-the-board budget cuts.
The President's Global Development Council
The White House nominated nine of the twelve possible members of the President's Global Development Council just before Christmas. The council, first announced last February, will be chaired by PIMCO CEO Mohamed A. El-Erian. The eight other nominees are: Richard C. Blum, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Esther Duflo, Sarah Beardsley Degnan Kambou, James M. Manyika, William K. Reilly, Steven Schwager and Smita Singh (short bios are included in the White House press release). The line-up so far pulls in research, private sector and philanthropic expertise and does not include operational or advocacy organizations (which may be a smart move to avoid conflict of interest with organizations who receive federal dollars for aid programs). The White House could still fill the remaining three slots, but I'm thrilled to see the initial list--this was one of my three foreign aid wishes--and hope we soon hear more about when the council will meet and how they will inform the development policy process.
House Passes Aid Transparency Bill 390-0
The House of Representatives passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3159) by a whopping 390-0 vote on December 30th. The amended bill drafted by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) has 56 cosponsors--28 Democrats and 28 Republicans--and requires standard monitoring and evaluation across US foreign aid agencies and would make the Foreign Assistance Dashboard a required tool to track US aid spending. This is a huge victory for House-led, bipartisan support for foreign aid legislation. But as we explained last week, the Senate must approve the bill before midnight tonight for it to become law. Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and John Kerry (D-MA) have been leading the charge in the Senate and would need to persuade Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to lift his hold on the bill so it can move forward for a unanimous consent vote before the 112th Congress comes to a close tonight.
[UPDATE 1/7/13: The Senate failed to vote on the bill before the end of the 112th Congress. The bill will have to be reintroduced in the 113th Congress and voted on by the House (again) and Senate to become law. While advocates are optimistic that the bill will be reintroduced, the prospects that it will pass quickly remain iffy especially as Congress will spend the coming months sorting out the FY13 and FY14 budgets.]
As part of the fiscal cliff deal, the large across-the-board cuts to federal spending--aka sequestration--are delayed for two months. This doesn't mean the budget issues are settled by any means and the uncertainty is still problematic for development planning and programs, but for now, it averts the immediate 8.2 percent cut to federal spending, including international affairs.