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White House to propose maintaining Ukraine aid after initially weighing massive cut

The White House will propose keeping security assistance for Ukraine at current levels when it releases its budget next week after initially considering a massive cut to the program, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget confirmed Thursday that the funding levels will remain the same after CNN and other outlets reached out about talks of proposed cuts.

The administration was planning to propose dropping the State Department Foreign Military Financing (FMF) level to roughly the same level as its past budget proposals of $20 million, according to two people familiar with the discussions. That would be far below the enacted level of $115 million, which has strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. The White House will release its 2021 budget request on February 10.

Those plans were dropped on Thursday without explanation.

While proposed presidential budgets are seen more as guidelines for lawmakers on the administration’s priorities and have little to no chance of making it into law, the proposal would have come while President Donald Trump is in the middle of an impeachment trial over his decision to withhold security assistance to Ukraine over demands for investigations into political rivals.

The administration has consistently sought cuts to foreign aid and domestic programs over the course of its first three budgets as it seeks to rein in federal spending. Those cuts have often been ignored by Congress as lawmakers restore specific funding streams and projects, often in a bipartisan manner, despite the White House proposal. That dynamic has become more acute since Democrats took control of the House in 2019.

A separate funding stream located at the Pentagon, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, will also be held at enacted levels, one of the sources said. The administration has consistently proposed maintaining that level of funding over its budget proposals.

News of proposing slashing the funding could have also come while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Ukraine for a meeting with that country’s President.

Previously, the Trump administration has proposed cutting the State Department program for Ukraine to $20 million, but Congress has repeatedly rejected the proposal and appropriated $115 million for Ukraine.

Ukraine receives aid from both the State Department and the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative is also expected to remain funded at its current level of $250 million. That remains unchanged from what the White House has requested in the past.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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