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White House foreign aid cuts to spare Ivanka, Pence favorite programs

Global health, women's economic development and religious protections would not be cut

Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser, spearheaded a women's economic development program that would not be cut. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser, spearheaded a women's economic development program that would not be cut. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Funding to support global health programs, promote women’s economic development and protect Christians and other religious minorities abroad from persecution would be exempt from a package of cuts to foreign aid that the White House is developing.

A senior administration official said Monday those programs are a high priority for President Donald Trump.

“He’s not going to touch those” as part of a forthcoming request for spending cuts, or rescissions, affecting the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, the official said.

[White House lifts pause on State, USAID spending]

If such a package is submitted shortly, as expected, it would block the targeted funds from being spent for 45 days of “continuous” legislative session, excluding recesses of three or more days. That would mean effectively a cancellation of money that would otherwise expire after the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, despite a requirement of 1974 budget law that Congress must approve any rescissions package.

Ivanka Trump,  the president’s daughter and adviser, spearheaded creation of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, which announced its first round of grants last month, totaling $27 million. And Vice President Mike Pence has championed efforts to send development funds to support persecuted groups such as the Kurdish Yazidis living in Iraq.

Those accounts would be spared, the senior official said, along with the nearly $9 billion appropriated annually for global health programs, much of which goes toward combating global HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases. Global health programs made up nearly one-third of annual funding for the 10 accounts that were initially targeted by the Office of Management and Budget for a inventory of unobligated balances.

[House works to end Trump’s suspension of aid to Central America]

The amount of the proposed rescissions and timing of the request are not final, though figures as high as $4 billion have been floated. The package is still under development and it’s not clear whether Trump will approve it, though one person with knowledge of the deliberations said OMB officials are confident the package will advance.

The development of a rescissions package follows the earlier temporary freeze of foreign aid accounts by the OMB while the office awaited an accounting by State and USAID of how much money remained unobligated before the end of the fiscal year.

The OMB lifted the spending pause Friday, but the agency restricted the State Department and USAID to obligating the unspent funds at a “daily rate” designed to exhaust the funds, but not before Sept. 30, according to a letter reviewed by CQ Roll Call. With about 50 days left in the fiscal year, a daily rate would correspond to spending about 2 percent of remaining funds each day.

The OMB directive said if the agencies needed to spend more for programmatic reasons, they could seek permission in the form of what is called a request for “reapportionment.”

By limiting the rate of spending, the OMB prevents funds from being spent quickly and being exhausted before the president can request a cancellation of the funds.

The administration official said Trump has wanted to end what he considers unimportant spending, including aid to nations that are hostile to the United States and funding for such programs as solar panels in the Caribbean region and soccer camps in Guatemala.

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