After heated debate and objections from both sides of the aisle, the White House has abandoned plans to cut up to $4 billion in foreign aid funding. Several officials confirmed the decision on Thursday, though no official public announcement has been made as of yet.
The news was first reported by Politico.
The steep funding cuts would have been part of a planned rescission package that would require Congress to rescind, or take back, funds that it had been previously approved and allocated for the current fiscal year, ending Sept. 30.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration notified the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) of a freeze on foreign aid spending that had already been congressionally approved, but not yet spent or designated.
Critics spoke out against the move, which could have led to the cancellation of funding less than two months before the end of the fiscal year. The potential cancellation of funds was particularly worrying in light of the fact that agencies often hold off on designating funds until the end of the year, according to the New York Times.
The administration’s letter to the agencies specifically requested an accounting of funding for 10 types of aid — including international peacekeeping programs, global health initiatives, development assistance, and support of international organizations.
The move to rescind funding, in which the White House would have bypassed Congress, prompted an outcry from the public and lawmakers from both parties.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin strongly opposed the rescission package, whose legality they questioned, and lobbied against it, the New York Times reported.
Many spoke out against the rescission package, which could have removed critical support for programs that serve some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Those who voiced their opposition included: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Sen. James Risch (R-ID), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — who also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations committees.
“I request that you work within the Administration to stop this proposed rescission, which GAO [Government Accountability Office] states is illegal, which violates the good faith of our budget negotiations, which important Republicans say is ill-advised, and which overrides Congress’ most fundamental Constitutional power,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Mnuchin on Aug. 16.
With her own message, Pelosi also enclosed a letter from Sen. Graham and Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, the former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, whose sentiments matched her own.
"A move to rescind funding absent policy input from the Department of State and USAID only undermines our national security interests and emboldens our adversaries,” Rogers and Graham wrote in their letter. “We strongly urge you to reconsider this approach.”
Over 20,000 Global Citizens also tweeted and emailed both Republican and Democratic leadership in Congress, calling on them to oppose the cuts and stop politicizing aid.
US foreign aid spending amounts to less than 1% of the country’s GDP. Those funds are crucial to addressing extreme poverty, hunger, and violence in developing countries around the world. And they also help strengthen international relations and improve global health security, which, in turn, benefits the US, too.