WASHINGTON - Two of President Donald Trump's strongest allies in Congress pushed back Friday on his administration's plans to slash some $4 billion in foreign aid that lawmakers have already approved.
In a letter, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky discouraged the president "in the strongest possible terms" from going ahead with the cuts to the State Department and United States Agency for International Development budget. The as-yet unsubmitted proposal is widely opposed by other Republicans and Democrats, but Graham and Rogers carry significant weight with the White House.
Graham is a frequent golfing partner of Trump's and is chairman of the powerful Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees State Department and USAID funding. Rogers is the top Republican on the corresponding subcommittee in the House. The top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate foreign affairs committees have also told the administration they oppose the cuts that are being planned under a procedure known as "rescission" and will take action to prevent them.
"We strongly urge you to reconsider this approach," Graham and Rogers wrote. They said a cut to congressionally approved funding without serious consultation "only undermines our national security interests and emboldens our adversaries."
The administration hasn't yet formally announced that it will seek the cut, but the Office of Management and Budget, which last year unsuccessfully tried a similar move, has signaled it will try to return to the Treasury roughly $4 billion in unspent money appropriated for United Nations peacekeeping, development assistance, global health programs and military training.
Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has sought each year to slash foreign affairs funding by as much as 30% in budget proposals that have been soundly rejected by lawmakers from both parties in Congress.