House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the Trump administration’s reported effort to cancel more than $4 billion in unspent foreign aid funds raises serious legal issues and could jeopardize the two-year budget deal agreed to earlier this summer.
In a letter written to Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin on Friday, Pelosi said that according to a Government Accountability Office legal opinion, the so-called rescission package targeting the unspent funds would require the approval of Congress. And since the House will not pass such a package – “I can assure you that the House of Representatives will not take affirmative legislative action,” Pelosi wrote – the White House should abandon its effort.
“I request that you work within the administration to stop this proposed rescission which GAO states is illegal, which violates the good faith of our budget negotiations, which important Republicans say is ill-advised, and which overrides Congress’ most fundamental Constitutional power,” Pelosi wrote.
Once formally submitted to Congress, the rescission package would freeze the funds designated for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development for 45 days, making it difficult to address the issue before the fiscal year ends on September 30.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations committees, and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), ranking member of the House committee that oversees State Department funding, expressed support for Pelosi’s request. "A move to rescind funding absent policy input from the Department of State and USAID only undermines our national security interests and emboldens our adversaries,” Rogers and Graham wrote last week. “We strongly urge you to reconsider this approach.”
Graham and Rogers also warned that the Trump administration’s effort “could complicate the ability of the administration and Congress to work constructively on future appropriations deals.” Congress will have just a few weeks when it returns from its summer recess to pass funding bills for the 2020 fiscal year, which begins on October 1.