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Senators from both parties vow to fight Trump's effort to cut $3 billion in foreign aid

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) both vow to push back if the Trump administration moves to prevent allocated foreign aid dollars from being spent. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Trump administration is exploring how it can keep more than $3 billion in foreign aid from being spent, but the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee say they'll fight to keep the assistance to other countries in place.

What's the deal?

In early August, the Office of Management and Budget asked the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide a breakdown of foreign aid projects that had already been approved by Congress but not yet funded.

OMB chief Mick Mulvaney is reportedly behind the move, which would largely entail withholding payments to the United Nations.

According to the Washington Post, the OMB's instructions were sent in a memo — the contents of which were leaked to several outlets.

The memo purportedly states administration plans to eliminate what it considers unnecessary international assistance, saying, "If Congress fails to take action to release the funds, they will remain on hold until the end of the fiscal year ... then be returned to the Treasury."

If successful, it wouldn't be the first time the Trump administration has moved to trim payments to other countries. In December, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced that America would cut its contribution to the global body by $285 million. In May, Haley said America would also be capping its bankrolling of the organization's peacekeeping operations.

So, what's the problem?

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) vowed Thursday to push back if the administration seeks to freeze the funds. 

"I don't know how they can do that legally, but we certainly look forward to seeing how to counter that, if that's the case," Corker said at a hearing.

During the same panel discussion, ranking Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) threatened to hold up the confirmation of future President Donald Trump appointees if the Mulvaney plan moved forward.

"If they do it in the way that they're going to ... in essence it effectuates a cut without Congress being able to act, then I have to look at the nominations in a whole different light," Menendez said.

Corker later told the Post that rescinding the funds from other countries would be "a step of bad faith."

The OMB refused to address the matter. One official told Politico, "We do not comment on alleged leaks and will not discuss deliberative and pre-decisional information."

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