Foreign Relations senators push back on WH aid cut

Foreign Relations senators push back on WH aid cut
© Greg Nash

The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are pushing back against a White House plan to block foreign aid funds.

“We have a letter going out to the administration this evening. We are concerned,” said Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerIt's time for Biden's Cuba GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand MORE (R-Tenn.), the panel’s chairman.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden holds off punishing Saudi crown prince, despite US intel Senate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration MORE (D-N.J.), the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, also signed on to the letter, and warned that Congress would push back against any attempt by the administration to contravene congressional appropriations for foreign aid.


“We’re working to try to convince them internally not to, but if they do there will be consequences,” he said, such as blocking confirmations that need to go through the committee.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has been considering sending Congress a request to rescind authorization from certain foreign aid. By merely sending Congress the request, the administration is able to freeze funds for the programs in question for the 45-day period that Congress has to consider the proposition.

Because the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, any rescissions request sent at this point of the year could, in practice, block any unspent funds from going out the door.

“So you basically are able to run the clock out, the money is kept from being spent, and then it rescinds at year’s end. So it’s a way of really moving around congressional prerogative,” Corker said.

Menendez said that if the administration attempted to employ a workaround, it would set a troubling precedent. 

“That should worry every member, because today it’s about foreign aid, tomorrow it could be about defense or health care or anything else they care about,” he said.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsPompeo: Release of Khashoggi report by Biden admin 'reckless' Senate Democrat: Saudi relationship being 'recalibrated' Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (D-Del.), another member of the committee, said the administration's plan was a “terrible idea” that demonstrated “bad faith.”

“[It] would harm some of our most important long-standing assistance programs,” he said, adding that he would be exploring other forms of pushback if the administration followed through.