The Trump administration is proposing to eliminate more than $4 billion in unspent foreign assistance funds, Politico reported late Thursday.
The White House budget office reportedly sent a proposal to the State Department to cut $2.3 billion in unspent funds at the United States Agency for International Development and another $2 billion in unspent funds at the State Department. The cuts would hit the budget of the United Nations particularly hard and include the cancellation of $522 million in basic funding for the international organization, $787 million for peacekeeping activities, and $364 million for humanitarian and human rights programs.
The Trump administration is expected to formally submit the so-called rescission package next week. Congress will have 45 days to approve the rescissions, during which time the funds will be frozen; if lawmakers fail to approve the package, as expected, the money will be released. However, given that the fiscal year ends on September 30, the move could effectively cancel the funding, even if Congress does not approve the rescissions.
Can the White House do that?
The Trump administration could face legal challenges under a 1974 law governing unspent funds if it proceeds with the rescissions, Politico said, and lawmakers from both parties have asked the White House to reconsider. “Such action would be precedent-setting and a direct affront to the separation of powers principle upon which our nation was built,” the bipartisan leadership of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations panels wrote in a letter to the White House.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said that the “funds were appropriated by overwhelming bipartisan majorities and the lengthy negotiations between the House, the Senate, the White House. And they were signed into law by the president.” Lowey also said that cuts to foreign aid have been rejected on a bipartisan basis, and that “these funds are essential for U.S. global leadership and protecting the security of the American people.”
The White House attempted a similar rescission effort for foreign aid last year but dropped the proposal due to resistance from both Republicans and Democrats.