The White House budget office believes it has found a way to cancel about $3 billion in foreign aid even if it is never approved by Congress, according to a Republican aide familiar with the plan.
Using an obscure budget rule, administration officials are planning to freeze billions of dollars in the State Department’s international assistance budget — just long enough so the funds will expire. The current plan involves about $3 billion, though officials are said to have discussed as much as $5 billion.
The White House plans to submit the package of so-called rescissions in the coming days, which triggers an automatic freeze on those funds for 45 days. The cuts would largely come from the U.S. funding for the United Nations, according to the aide.
With exactly 45 days left in fiscal 2018, the State Department wouldn’t be able to use those funds even if Congress rejects the request because those dollars will have expired by Oct. 1.
The tactic, engineered by OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, is intended to prevent a cascade of end-of-year spending by the State Department. But critics of the idea, including Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), are already vowing to challenge the move in court.
“I don’t know how they can do that legally, but we certainly look forward to seeing how to counter that, if that’s the case,” Corker said at a committee meeting Thursday.