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August 11, 2019 at 7:23 pm #11882Ven SureshKeymaster
A quick update on some concerning news that has just emerged in Washington – for the second summer in a row, the Administration’s budget office (OMB) is trying to cancel critical State Department and USAID programs that are essential to America’s security and economic interests.
They are rolling out this irresponsible proposal just after a bipartisan budget deal was signed into law, while Congress is on a 5-week recess, and – not surprising – it’s facing strong bipartisan objection from Capitol Hill.
As I’ve told reporters all week, given the threats we face around the world, it’s a “reckless and irresponsible move” to take a sledgehammer to one the smallest yet highest-impact parts of the federal budget.
The good news is that top Republican and Democratic lawmakers are forcefully pushing back.
Here’s a quick behind the scenes summary:
DANGEROUS PLAN: Last weekend, while Secretary Pompeo was overseas, the Administration’s budget office started the process to roll back as much as $4 billion in congressionally-mandated resources for the State Department and USAID before those funds can be responsibly spent ahead of the end of the fiscal year on September 30th.
The proposal singularly focuses on international affairs programs – a plan to cancel what is just a minuscule part of the overall funding Congress approved, literally just 0.09% of the entire federal budget.
CHOPPING BLOCK: Surprisingly, programs being targeted for cuts include many key Administration and Congressional priorities:
Critical assistance to fight Ebola in the Congo and surrounding countries
Significant global health resources to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB around the world
Support for key allies, including Jordan and Egypt, along with essential security partnership programs
Programs to compete with China and counter Russian influence in Eastern Europe and Asia
Resources for the Administration’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative
Support for survivors of ISIS and persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East
Support for the U.S. response to the Venezuela crisis
BIPARTISAN PUSHBACK: Even with lawmakers away from the Capitol during the August recess, senior lawmakers are raising their voices – opposing both the substance and the process:
4 Key Committee Leaders Say “No”: The chairs and ranking members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees – Senators Risch (R-ID) and Menendez (D-NJ) alongside Reps. McCaul (R-TX) and Engel (D-NY) – just sent a joint letter to the Administration’s budget office today calling out their “deep concern”:
“Slashing crucial diplomacy and development programming would be detrimental to our national security… It would be inappropriate for any administration, under any circumstance, to attempt to override Congress’s most fundamental power.”
“As leaders… with oversight responsibility for U.S. foreign policy… we would be compelled to use all the tools at our disposal to respond appropriately, should such action be taken.”
“We strongly urge the Administration not to submit a new rescission package to Congress and seek your assurance that no such proposal will be forthcoming.”
Appropriations leaders Rep. Nita Lowey and Senator Patrick Leahy also weighed in, stating: “these funds were appropriated by overwhelming bipartisan majorities after lengthy negotiations” and “are essential to promoting U.S. global leadership and protecting the security of the American people.”
REALITY CHECK: The Administration is seeking to rescind unobligated funds from the past two fiscal years. Yet, budget experts have said that while it often takes time to responsibly deploy overseas dollars to projects, this year has been particularly difficult due to the government shutdown, delayed appropriations, and numerous hurdles by OMB to slow down spending on key programs.
IN THE NEWS: The press coverage has been significant – with the Washington Post, the NY Times, CNN, POLITICO, and beyond – calling out how the budget office is “bypassing Congress”.
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