Senator Graham, close Trump ally, joins opponents to planned U.S. foreign aid cuts


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senator Lindsey Graham and Representative Hal Rogers urged President Donald Trump on Friday to drop planned “sweeping and indiscriminate” foreign aid cuts, joining a chorus of lawmakers opposing what they consider a bid to sidestep Trump’s own budget deal.

FILE PHOTO: Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2020 for the State Department on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

Trump administration officials have said they are reviewing State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development spending with an eye to using a budget process known as “rescission” to slash some $4.3 billion in aid spending, defying Congress, which passed legislation – signed into law by Trump – backing such spending.

“Not only do these cuts have the potential to undermine significant national security and anti-terrorism efforts of our diplomats and international partners overseas, but we fear such a rescission package could complicate the ability of the Administration and Congress to work constructively on future appropriations deals,” the two lawmakers said in a letter to Trump.

Graham and Rogers said they had supported a budget deal with the administration in good faith, and said plans to use the budget mechanism to sidestep that pact “seems an abdication of this bipartisan agreement.”

Graham, typically a close Trump ally, is chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that handles foreign affairs and foreign aid spending. Rogers is the ranking Republican on the comparable House of Representatives subcommittee.

Trump signed the budget deal into law two weeks ago, after urging Congress to pass it.

A senior administration official said the rescissions package would involve more than $4 billion and likely would be sent to Congress early next week, although it was not yet determined how much of that money would end up being cut.

The official said programs likely to be cut included some money for the United Nations and for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, but that the administration did not foresee cuts in global health spending, a women’s program championed by Trump’s daughter Ivanka or money spent to protect Christian religious minorities.

Graham and Rogers follow many others, including the top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees, who have come out against the reported plan to make proposed cuts.

Congress had pushed back last year against a similar rescissions package.

“We are happy to work with you to ensure that our foreign assistance is targeted in the most appropriate way. However, we discourage you from submitting this rescission package in the strongest possible terms,” Graham and Rogers said.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Leslie Adler

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