Democratic and Republican lawmakers say they are determined to block a White House budget proposal that would gut the State Department’s refugee operations and slash overall humanitarian aid levels.
President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget request proposes consolidating three separate humanitarian assistance accounts operated by the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. The White House proposal would not only cut funding but reshape humanitarian assistance, particularly in how it affects refugees.
While longtime humanitarian assistance practitioners say the proposal has some merits, they do not trust the Trump administration’s ultimate intentions and thus oppose it. That’s because the White House is seeking to cut the overall humanitarian funding for fiscal 2020 — from the fiscal 2019 enacted levels of roughly $9.5 billion to just under $6 billion, which critics say would eviscerate dedicated refugee programs.
“We all get it. He [Trump] hates the State Department. He hates humanitarian programs. . . . Congress doesn’t agree and so we’re going to go our own way,” Connecticut Democrat Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, a member of the Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee, said last week. “I’m not sure [Sen.] Lindsey Graham is even going to read it.” Indeed, Graham, the cardinal of the State-Foreign Operations Committee, was equally dismissive of the White House proposal, as have been other Republicans.
Under the budget proposal, the State’s refugee assistance account, which is managed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, would be left with just $365 million, down from $3.4 billion in fiscal 2019 funding.