05:56 - Source: CNN
Why is Ivanka Trump acting like a diplomat?
CNN  — 

As the Trump administration eyes canceling billions of dollars in foreign aid funding, a senior administration official said Wednesday that projects spearheaded by Ivanka Trump and Vice President Mike Pence would be saved from any possible cancellation.

The official told CNN that the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), protections for Christian minorities across the world, and programs related to global health are not subject to possible aid cuts.

The official said it should come as no surprise that the President’s policy priorities wouldn’t be a part of a potential proposal to Congress to cancel already appropriated funds, which is known as rescission.

That official confirmed that the administration is looking to move forward a possible rescission package, but did not specify timing. The fiscal year ends on September 30.

The Washington Post was the first to report on the exceptions to a possible rescission.

CNN reported last week that the Office of Management and Budget had put a temporary hold on the majority of congressionally approved foreign aid funds – pending a review by the State Department and the US Agency for International Development – in a move that critics said was an attempt by the administration to undercut Congress and cancel aid programs that advocates see as vital to US interests.

A USAID official said last week the frozen funding amounted to between $2 billion and $4 billion.

A senior administration official told CNN Friday that they had received the requested information from State and USAID on the foreign assistance funds Thursday night and that the funds are now available.

“The Administration has requested a temporary pause in spending in select foreign assistance accounts. This pause was in effect until State Department and USAID reported the unobligated balances in these accounts. After receiving the requested information last night and having reviewed it, these funds are now available,” the official said in a statement.

Bipartisan backlash

The funds are only partially available, however. A USAID spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that, “as of Friday, August 9, OMB has issued a new apportionment permitting the State Department and USAID to obligate funds from the covered accounts up to a ceiling of approximately two percent of the remaining unobligated funds each day.”

“The State Department and USAID are working with relevant bureaus and posts to implement OMB’s revised apportionment and expect to hear about next steps in the coming days,” the spokesperson said.

A US official told CNN Wednesday there had not been an official request yet to shield Ivanka Trump and Pence’s foreign aid programs. Ivanka Trump launched the $50 million W-GDP in February. In July 2018, Pence announced a new initiative to aid religious and ethnic communities persecuted by ISIS, beginning in Iraq.

The prospect of a rescission package has drawn bipartisan backlash and condemnation from advocates. Congress defeated a similar attempt last year.

On Friday, the chairmen and ranking members of both the House and Senate foreign relations committees on Friday penned a letter to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought urging them to lift the freeze on these funds and not submit a recession package.

“It would be inappropriate for any administration, under any circumstance, to attempt to override Congress’s most fundamental power. Such action would be precedent-setting and a direct affront to the separation of powers principle upon which our nation was built,” the lawmakers wrote.

“As leaders of the Congressional Committees with oversight responsibility for U.S. foreign policy and the appropriate resourcing and execution of development and diplomacy programs, we would be compelled to use all the tools at our disposal to respond appropriately, should such action be taken,” Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, and Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, wrote.

“We strongly urge the Administration not to submit a new rescission package to Congress and seek your assurance that no such package will be forthcoming,” the lawmakers wrote.

Last week, Liz Schrayer, the president of the US Global Leadership Council, condemned OMB’s action as “reckless and irresponsible.”

“These are programs that are in our interest,” she told CNN. “If we take ourselves off the playing field, we do it at our own peril. These are programs that we are using to advance our economic and our security interests and I think it is really surprising that the administration is pulling back on what is less than 1% of our entire budget when there are such great threats in the world.”