Engel Blasts Administration Freeze of Foreign Aid Funding

August 8, 2019 by Dan McCue

The Trump administration’s decision to put a temporary hold on the majority of congressionally approved foreign aid funds, drew a sharp rebuke from the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Wednesday.

“This Administration’s contempt for Congress is astounding,” said Representative Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. “When Congress decides how much we spend on foreign assistance, it isn’t a suggestion. It’s the law, backed up by the Constitution.”

In a letter sent to the State Department and the US Agency for International Development on Saturday, the Office of Management and Budget said the funds would be frozen until “three business days after” the agencies provide an accounting of how much remains in specific accounts and how the funds are being spent.

Those funds expire on September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Asia when the letter, addressed to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, was sent. Congress is out of session on its August recess.

The accounts specified in the letter include funding for international organizations, international peacekeeping, international narcotics control and law enforcement, global health, development assistance, foreign military  assistance for Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia.

Based on the responses from the agencies, OMB may propose Congress rescind the appropriated funds, or redirect them.

But Engel is having none of it.

“This dangerous action would undermine global health efforts,” he said. “It would stymie attempts to stop democratic backsliding and deter Russia’s harmful influence. It would devastate our ability to project American values and leadership across the globe. And when American troops are deployed to so many countries around the world, the last thing we should do is cut funding for the diplomats who can keep them from putting their lives on the line.

“President Trump and Secretary Pompeo should follow the law and stop playing politics with our foreign affairs budget,” the representative continued. “If they move ahead with this plan, I’ll use the full power of the Foreign Affairs Committee to reverse their efforts and to demand answers about why this Administration seems determined to ignore the will of Congress and undermine American leadership.”

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