OMB Documents Obtained by Chairs Lowey, Yarmuth, Maloney Show Trump Administration Withheld WHO Funds to Combat the Coronavirus Pandemic with Same Tactic Used in Illegal Ukraine Impoundment
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, and House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney published funding documents obtained from the Trump Administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that show the White House withheld expiring funds via an apportionment footnote – the same tactic used by President Trump to illegally withhold Ukraine security assistance. This year, OMB used an apportionment footnote to freeze accounts that fund the United States’ contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The Trump Administration’s rampant abuse of power has jeopardized our communities, subverted our democracy, violated our laws, and now it has undermined global efforts to fight the coronavirus,” said Chairs Lowey, Yarmuth, and Maloney. “In his transparent attempt to scapegoat the WHO for his Administration’s failure to contain and crush the virus, President Trump announced he would unilaterally terminate U.S. funding for the WHO.
“The documents obtained by our Committees show OMB took legally-binding steps to cater to the President’s dangerous and misguided whims, using an apportionment footnote to freeze expiring funds and circumvent Congress – the same tactic used to illegally withhold aid to Ukraine and which ultimately led to President Trump’s impeachment.
“This new documentation provides further evidence of systemic abuse under President Trump and OMB Director Russell Vought. These findings affirm the need for increased transparency and the substantive reforms included in the Congressional Power of the Purse Act, so no president can abuse the powers of the office, as President Trump has done.”
In August 2020, Chairs Lowey, Yarmuth, and Maloney sent a letter to OMB Director Russell Vought demanding documentation on the apportionment of appropriations in the remaining weeks of this fiscal year after Director Vought failed to assure the House leaders that OMB would not abuse the apportionment process and President Trump publicly derided the WHO and announced plans to unilaterally terminate U.S. contributions.
While OMB failed to fully comply with the House leaders’ request, OMB did turn over some of the requested apportionments which show OMB again withheld expiring funds via an apportionment footnote – this time for the Contributions to International Organizations accounts which fund, among other things, the United States’ contributions to the WHO.
Like the apportionment footnote that illegally impounded foreign aid to Ukraine and, in part, led to the impeachment of President Trump, this footnote put a freeze on expiring funds, was politically motivated, and sought to circumvent Congress while impeding the work of the State Department. In contrast to the Ukraine impoundment, no legislative remedy was necessary in this case to extend the availability of these amounts. After the Committees pressed OMB to produce documents in response to their request, OMB released the funds to the State Department approximately 7 days before the end of the fiscal year and the State Department was able to obligate the withheld funds expeditiously.
A PDF of the apportionment documents can be found here. In April 2020, Chairs Lowey, Yarmuth, and Maloney introduced the Congressional Power of the Purse Act, which, among other reforms, would require publishing all apportionment documents on a public website.