The Trump administration is dropping plans to cut billions of dollars from the foreign aid budget that had been approved by Congress but gone unspent, according to multiple reports.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had previously asked the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to prepare a “rescission” package for $3.5 billion in foreign assistance before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. A rescission pulls back funds that have been appropriated by lawmakers but not actually spent by the government.
On Tuesday, however, OMB dropped the request after bipartisan pushback from lawmakers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also against the plan and voiced his opposition in a meeting with other administration officials, Reuters reported.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to slash foreign aid spending, calling it ineffective and wasteful. In its first budget proposal, the White House called for foreign assistance to be cut by nearly 30 percent, a figure that was widely denounced on Capitol Hill.
The administration again sought to slash foreign aid spending in the fiscal year 2018 budget, but Trump ended up signing a spending bill without any cuts after Congress rejected them.
Foreign aid spending is generally popular with both parties in Congress. Most lawmakers consider it to be a useful diplomatic tool and an expression of “American values” abroad. (RELATED: Why Cutting Aid To Pakistan Won’t Help The US Win In Afghanistan)
“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,” Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.
Within the administration, Pompeo has been a leading opponent of rolling back foreign assistance funds. At his confirmation hearing in April, he told lawmakers that he would push to keep any funding he deemed necessary carry out the State Department’s mission, as he had done while heading the CIA.
The federal budget for FY2018 set aside $55.9 billion for international affairs, including foreign aid, which was about 5 percent less than the previous fiscal year.
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