WASHINGTON (TNS) — The White House is stepping up its efforts to block the State Department from distributing several billion dollars in foreign aid by the end of the fiscal year, imposing daily limits on spending until it can ask Congress to cancel the funds later this month, said three people familiar with the matter.
Pressure from Congress and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo led the Office of Management and Budget to lift a freeze on about $4 billion imposed Aug. 3. Now the administration is trying a different tack: limiting spending to 2% of unobligated funds per day, and then asking Congress by Aug. 20 to cancel the unspent money, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.
The move to cap spending is the latest development in a multi-year battle by President Donald Trump’s White House to cut foreign assistance funding even over the objections of Pompeo, one of Trump’s most loyal Cabinet members. The president’s proposed budgets for the last two years sought to cut funding by about 30%, only to have Congress reject the request.
“Slashing crucial diplomacy and development programming would be detrimental to our national security while also undermining Congress’s intended use for these funds,” said a letter last week from senior congressional leaders, including Idaho Republican Jim Risch and New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Pompeo successfully fended off a similar bid last year to limit foreign aid spending but so far has been unable to prevent the White House from targeting the money this year. The funds would go to United Nations peacekeeping operations, narcotics control and global health and development assistance, among other things.