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 CorkerThe Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel Former US special envoy to anti-ISIS coalition joins Stanford University as lecturer MORE (R-Tenn.), the panel’s chairman.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMore oversight of America’s international media networks a good idea Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Trump lowers refugee goal to 30,000, he must meet it 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.

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“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 CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSunday shows preview: Washington heads into multi-day shutdown Overnight Energy: Senators introduce bipartisan carbon tax bill | House climate panel unlikely to have subpoena power | Trump officials share plan to prevent lead poisoning Flake to co-introduce bipartisan climate bill 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.