The Trump administration’s plans to take back over $ 3 billion in congressionally allocated funds were killed Tuesday in a major win for foreign aid, sources told HuffPost.
The planned rescissions targeted foreign assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. State Department. The global development community saw the effort as a way for the Trump administration to circumvent Congress’ budgetary process and achieve a version of the foreign aid cuts initially proposed in earlier budgets as part of President Donald Trump’s “America First” ethos.
The decision to not go through with the rescission package follows a Tuesday midday meeting between Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Office of Management and Budget head and fiscal hawk Mick Mulvaney.
Lawmakers from both parties had earlier condemned the effort to “freeze” money that hadn’t been spent in the days before the federal government’s fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. Under the rescission plan, whatever money was not spent would have been returned to the U.S. Treasury. Congressional attempts to stop such a move would have required floor time, which is difficult this late in an election year. Taking a vote on foreign assistance is also unappealing for lawmakers heading into midterm elections.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, called the latest move a “welcome decision.”
“Rescinding funds that had been agreed to by Congress and signed into law by the President, in the waning days of the fiscal year, would have set a terrible precedent and harmed programs that further United States interests around the world,” Leahy said. “For the appropriations process to function we need assurance that the Congress’s constitutional power of the purse will be respected.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CQ that this rescission would have been “short-sighted.”
“They were going to cut out a couple of billion dollars and infuriate Congress in the process — just to make themselves look good to the base,” Corker said. “It was very short-sighted, so hopefully they figured that out.”
Kevin Rachlin of InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations ― who had confirmed the news to HuffPost ― was pleased with the turn of events. InterAction had been organizing lobbying efforts to fight the potential rescission.
“Cutting critical foreign assistance programs could harm U.S. efforts to save lives, strengthen civil society, support good governance and create economic opportunity,” Rachlin said.
Leahy and Corker were among those lawmakers who had previously urged the president and his team not to follow through on the rescission plan.
“It would be a step of bad faith,” Corker told The Washington Post earlier this month.
Leahy took it a step further in a Friday letter to Pompeo and Mulvaney: “It would cause significant damage to the bipartisan consensus that produced those funds and to the Congress’s ability to work cooperatively with the Administration on future appropriations matters.”
The decision to kill the rescission looks like a win for Pompeo, whose State Department’s budget and morale would have been decimated by the cuts.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.