Foreign Policy reported that President Trump’s administration has instructed the State Department to cut more than half of U.S funding to United Nations Programs. The push for a drastic reduction comes as Trump is scheduled to release his first budget proposal, which includes a 37 percent cut to the U.S Agency for International Development, and State Department budgets. The United States spends $10 billion a year on the United Nations.
Republicans had earlier objected to reports of steep cuts to the State Department budget, even when it appeared that foreign aid programs would be hit hardest.
The overall budget reduction was rumored to be 37%, a figure that immediately drew opposition from Mitch McConnell. “I’m not in favor of cutting what we call the 150 account by that amount,” McConnell said, adding that such cuts would “probably not” pass the Senate. Lindsay Graham called the idea “dead on arrival” when the cuts were left unspecified. “This budget destroys soft power, it puts our diplomats at risk and it’s going nowhere.”
The pushback apparently helped Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Politico reported late yesterday that the White House revised its cuts to State and USAID, stretching them out over several years rather than all at once, after Tillerson lobbied Trump for a second look: The State Department budget won’t be getting cut as deeply as President Donald Trump initially suggested after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson successfully pushed back with the White House, according to people familiar with the plans.
The budget blueprint, expected later this week, will still trim funding for both the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development next year, but by less than the 37 percent initially floated in preliminary documents sent out by the White House in late February.
The budget revision is expected to include “staged cuts” spread out over several years, instead of the immediate hit, according to a senior administration official, who said that the White House is giving Tillerson time “to do a deeper analysis on foreign aid.”
Both of these stories got published nearly at the same time, which suggests some horse trading took place on proposals for deep cuts. Tillerson could have saved State’s own programs and personnel with offers to shift more of the cuts onto the UN.
Given the breadth of support for major cutbacks of UN funding, a budget that retains much of it over White House objections may become a real headache for Senate Republicans — especially if Tillerson winds up advocating for those cuts. While presidential budget proposals rarely form the basis of Congressional budget language, this particular issue will get a lot of attention from a lot of voters, and Mitch McConnell et al had better figure out how to deliver on a significant portion of those cuts.