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White House Scraps Planned Foreign-Aid Cuts: REPORT

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, D.C., March 15, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

The White House decided Thursday not to move forward with a broadly unpopular proposal to cut billions of dollars in foreign aid, according to multiple reports.

The Office of Management and Budget had planned a package of $4.3 billion in cuts to foreign aid, but the White House backed off the plan amid concerns that it would jeopardize the sweeping, bipartisan budget deal Congress passed earlier this month.

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Republican members of Congress had reportedly warned Trump that the move would threaten national security and not be popular with either party. On the other side, arguing in favor of the plan, were acting budget director Russ Vought and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

“We’re talking to Republicans and Democrats about it and certain things we could save,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “Certain things, it could probably be a pennywise,” he added, implying the cuts could be smaller than first thought.

Both Democrats and Republicans objected to the proposal, albeit for different reasons.

“We strongly urge the Administration to refrain from sending a rescission message to the Congress,” Representative John Yarmuth and Senator Bernie Sanders, influential members of their respective chambers’ budget committees, wrote in a letter Monday to Mulvaney. The two Democrats expressed concern that the funds for foreign-aid programs could be frozen until the end of the fiscal year unless Congress explicitly rejected the cuts.

The top Republicans on the Senate and House appropriations subcommittees that handle foreign aid, Senator Lindsey Graham and Representative Hal Rogers, vehemently rejected the plan as well.

“At a time when threats from Iran are increasing, ISIS has not been vanquished, the Administration is putting significant pressure on the regime in Venezuela, and aiming to curtail the North Korea nuclear program, the rescission package is particularly concerning,” Graham and Rogers wrote in a letter to the president. They added that pulling the funding “undermines our national security interests and emboldens our adversaries.”

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