Well, he’s up to old tricks again.
President Trump officially asked Congress on Tuesday to take back $15.4 billion in previously approved spending, which is the largest single request from the White House and also the first in almost two decades.
Congress gets 45 days to approve his request in a measure not subject to Senate filibuster.
The White House claims the clawback is aimed mostly at unobligated funds, like that leftover for defunct programs. Getting back unobligated funds won’t reduce the deficit. But some of the money being targeted will reduce expenditures.
“If enacted, these rescissions would decrease Federal outlays in the affected accounts by an estimated $3.0 billion,” wrote Mick Mulvaney, the White House Office of Management and Budget director, in a letter sent to the president about the request.
Democrats claim that some of those clawbacks in the proposal aren’t so innocent, like taking money out of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
“These Republican rescissions show the hypocrisy of a GOP Congress that insists on tight budgets for children and families while handing enormous, unpaid-for giveaways to corporations and the wealthiest,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday night.
The Trump administration says the CHIP funds come from two accounts: one where the spending authorization already lapses, and one that has extra funds that aren’t expected to be spent.
“None of the CHIP programs that have just been reauthorized would be impacted in any way should this rescissions package pass,” Mulvaney said to reporters at the Capitol Tuesday.
The House caucus called the Republican Study Committee, which is the largest GOP House caucus, approved of the package and urged the Senate to pass it, where it’s getting skepticism from the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“Instead of making excuses for why keeping our promises is not possible, Mitch McConnell should make every effort to pass this package,” said the caucus in a resolution that was adopted by the steering committee.
But others are skeptical about the wisdom of clawing back the funds.
For instance, the $252 million which was originally appropriated to the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa will come out of USAID’s International Disaster Assistance Account, which is managed by our Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. The money left is the unspent part of the $1.2 billion which Congress allocated to combat the epidemic overseas.
Jeremy Konyndyk, the former head of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and served during the outbreak, explained that the money was intended to be an emergency fund for the next deadly disease outbreak somewhere in the world. Clawing a small amount back like that, Konyndyk stated in an interview, puts the world at a greater risk for an outbreak and won’t make a significant dent in either the debt or the deficit.
The cash “in effect had the potential to function as something we very, very badly need, which is a contingency fund for significant large-scale disease outbreak,” insisted Konyndyk, who is now a Center for Global Development senior fellow.
“In terms of substantive budget terms, it’s a rounding error, it makes barely a dent in the deficit,” he explained. “It’s an optics exercise to say that they are giving back some money, but it’s really foolish ultimately.”
Hopefully, the sane Democrats won’t allow Trump to get his way.