WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, is urging House appropriators to fund the State Department for 2018 at least as much as they did for 2017.

With a two-year budget agreement set into law, appropriators from both chambers must hash out top-line figures showing how government funding will be divided among the 12 appropriations bills so that an an omnibus spending measure can be written.

To avert a government shutdown, lawmakers must reach a deal on those details before the latest funding patch expires March 23. Even though the larger deal is final, some incomplete details will be contentious.

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Engel, of New York, and Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, asked Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Hal Rogers, R-Ky., to appropriate at least as much as the committee did for fiscal 2017, $57.4 billion.

Frelinghuysen is the House Appropriations Committee chairman; Lowey is the committee’s ranking member; and Rogers is the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

For FY17, the budget appropriated by the subcommittee amounted to $36.6 billion in base dollars and $20.8 billion in overseas contingency operations funds, which are exempt from budget caps.

Then there was $518.5 billion in base nondefense spending and $16.5 billion in OCO nondefense spending to go around.

However, the recent deal sets FY18 base nondefense spending at $579 billion, with $12 billion in nondefense OCO.

“We understand that while OCO funding has been reduced, it has not been eliminated, and the international affairs budget may continue to draw certain funds through OCO depending on circumstances,” the lawmakers say in a letter to House appropriators. “Regardless of the mechanism through which funding occurs, we urge you ensure that the Function 150 account is funded at least at the FY17 enacted level.”

Engel and Castro pointed to letters supporting robust international affairs funding, from 1,200 veterans, 151 retired flag officers and 225 business leaders.

Last week, Engel led a letter to the president signed by all Democratic members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in which lawmakers decried the Trump administration’s steep cuts to the international affairs budget. The administration has sought to constrain nondefense discretionary spending.

Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.

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