Blog By: Tim Gehring, IJM Policy Manager
One of the great holiday traditions in our nation’s capital is Congress waiting until a final deadline to pass an appropriations bill that will fund the U.S. Government for the next fiscal year. Usually, this is within the last day or two before DC becomes a ghost town for the holidays. This year, the tradition continued. Earlier today, as the sand ran out, Congress voted to approve a budget for 2016.
Within the 2,009-page bill outlaying $1.1 trillion of spending, IJM was looking for 18 lines buried within all those pages and a mere $25 million to be included in this bill that would provide funding for Senator Corker’s End Modern Slavery Initiative.
We felt very confident going into the budget negotiations that the money for the End Modern Slavery Initiative would be included in the final budget bill, in large part due to momentum generated by your advocacy efforts. Many of you came to DC earlier this year in April and September to meet with your Senators and Representatives to express support for the Senator Corker’s bill. Many of you also held meetings in your home states to encourage your respective members of Congress to co-sponsor and support this bill.
But even with all of the groundwork we had done in Washington on the End Modern Slavery Initiative, it is always difficult to predict what will happen on an appropriations bill. Remember, this bill is not just money for U.S. foreign assistance but for ALL U.S. Government spending. That means there are always controversial provisions that get added at the last minute that threaten to torpedo the whole deal.
First, thanks to your full-court advocacy, the End Modern Slavery Initiative had almost a third of the Senate co-sponsoring this bill. It is difficult to underestimate how much leverage that gave Senator Corker and IJM when we lobbied for the $25 million to be included in this 2016 budget.
Second, several Members of Congress with strategic positions on the Appropriations Committee and in Congressional Leadership recognized how important the End Modern Slavery Initiative is to address modern-slavery around the world. These influential members of Congress used their positions of power to help the most powerless—they used their leadership to help the most vulnerable people in the world.
So, what exactly does this mean?
First of all, it means that in 2016 there is money on the table for this legislation pending Senate bill 553 is enacted into law. That’s right—we still need the House and the Senate to pass the authorizing bill that we have been advocating for this year! We still want as many Senators as possible to cosponsor this bill. When we have a House version of the bill, we will want as many Congressman to cosponsor the bill. Our co-sponsorship campaign does not stop; rather, it has new life.
Secondly, by appropriating the $25 million, Congress has given a significant indication of support for this legislation. This is a great opportunity to get in touch with your senators' offices and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. You can do that by signing our petition: click here!
Finally, it means this will significantly help our efforts on getting a House version of the bill introduced in early 2016. That will continue to be our top priority as we enter the New Year.
It has been a long, slow process this year, but we just hit an incredibly important milestone for this legislation. What a way to end 2015! Now, let us proceed to all of the other holiday traditions that are way more fun—and less-stressful?
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Tim Gehring represents IJM’s legislative and policy priorities on Capitol Hill and manages relations with Congressional offices and within the Executive Branch. Prior to this position, Tim interned with IJM’s Government Relations & Advocacy department in Spring 2011 and served as the principle researcher for IJM President Gary Haugen’s latest book, The Locust Effect. Tim holds a B.A. in Business and Economics from Asbury University and a M.A. in International Affairs and Economics from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky.
International Justice Mission is the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization, working to end modern-day slavery, human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, restraining perpetrators, and transforming broken public justice systems. Learn more at www.ijm.org.