White House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding

White House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding
© Anna Moneymaker

The White House is weighing whether it wants to attempt to claw back billions in funding from the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.  

The Office of Management and Budget, according to multiple reports, is eyeing cuts that could total more than $3 billion from previously allocated funding. 

The administration is planning to target funding it views as "unnecessary." 

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“If Congress fails to take action to release the funds, they will remain on hold until the end of the fiscal year  ... then be returned to the Treasury,” according to an OMB memo, which was read to The Washington Post.  

An administration official declined to comment to The Hill when asked about the potential package, saying "we do not comment on alleged leaks and will not discuss deliberative and pre-decisional information."

But talk of section rescissions package has sparked a round of speculation and chatter on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyCongress reaches deal to fund government through Dec. 7, preventing shutdown Senate approves first 2019 spending package GOP shrugs off Trump shutdown threat MORE (R-Ala.) told reporters that he had heard the administration was contemplating a second attempt at clawing back spending but hadn't yet seen a proposal. 

"I myself haven't seen any of that, but we've heard that it might come up or that it is coming up," he said. 

Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSunday shows preview: White House officials on offensive in wake of anonymous NY Times op-ed Congress and Trump are out of step on intellectual property White House drops plan to cut foreign aid MORE (D-Del.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, noted that the administration had repeatedly tried to undermine the State Department and USAID's budgets, but Congress had curbed that effort. 

“Fortunately on a bipartisan basis we’ve consistently rejected those cuts. I view this rescission strategy as just another way to make harmful cuts to our work around the world," he told reporters this week. 

The Senate previously rejected a $15 billion rescissions package in June. GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday White House says Kavanaugh ready to testify over 'false allegation' MORE (Maine) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGraham: Mueller is going to be allowed to finish investigation Trump authorizes sanctions against foreign governments that interfere in US elections Hillicon Valley: Google takes heat from Trump, Congress | US cracking down on foreign hackers | Sanders steps up Amazon attack | Analysts predict iPhone prices would rise if production moved to US MORE (N.C.) joined with Democrats in opposing the legislation, depriving it of the simple majority needed for passage. 

But senators and staffers are raising red flags that they could be powerless to block a second package because the 45-day period normally given to Congress to approve a rescissions package would go past Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.  

If Congress doesn't take action, OMB is arguing the administration could automatically take back the funding after the end of the fiscal year. 

If the administration goes forward with its plan, Congress could try to push back by including language forcing the administration to spend the money into a continuing resolution (CR) that is expected to be needed to fund the government past the end of next month.  

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press Booming economy has Trump taking a well-deserved victory lap MORE (D-N.J.) said he had heard the administration was weighing another rescissions package, but warned there would be "consequences" if they sent it up so close to the end of the fiscal year. 

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, questioned if it was legal for the administration to submit a rescissions package so close to the end of the fiscal year.  

"I don’t know how they can do that legally," he said at a committee hearing. "We certainly look forward to seeing how to counter that if that’s the case."

Niv Elis contributed.