House Committee Bill Expected to Significantly Cut State Department Budget, Though Less Than Prior Trump Plans

Earlier Trump proposals floated withholding billions in crucial aid from close U.S. allies, though increasing aid to the Palestinian Authority. It is unclear what the new House plan will offer on this issue

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department in Washington, D.C., June 2, 2017.
YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS

WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives' Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations is expected to present a plan on Wednesday which will significantly cut the State Department's budget for the 2018 fiscal year. The plan includes an 11-percent cut in the budget of the department and foreign operations funding.

While such a cut will be painful for the State Department, it is much lower than previous budget-cutting plans floated by the Trump administration regarding the State Department and U.S. foreign aid, including by as much as 37 percent over the course of a few years.

The spending bill is expected to be published on Wednesday afternoon, before the subcommittee mark-up on Thursday. According to a Politico report on Tuesday, approximately $5.6 billion will be cut from the department's budget, which will stand at $47.5 billion. The exact areas and programs in which the subcommittee will offer these cuts are not yet known, and will only become publicly available once the spending bill goes online. 

In April, documents obtained by Foreign Policy magazine showed that the Trump administration was going to propose a much deeper cut to the State Department's budget, which would go as far as withholding crucial aid worth billions of dollars from close U.S allies such as Egypt, Jordan and many countries in Africa and Asia. However, the Palestinian Authority was one of the few foreign governments slated to get an increase in aid under the leaked plan. The State Department also clarified that Trump's budget plan would not affect the United States' annual security aid package to Israel. It's unclear as of Wednesday morning what the House plan will offer on this issue. 

The process of agreeing on the department's final budget for the 2018 fiscal year is still far from finished, with the Senate still to weigh in. Leading senators from both parties have expressed strong opposition in recent months to deep cuts in the United States' foreign aid budgets, and to downsizing the State Department. If the House and the Senate fail to reach agreement or a compromise on the issue, there are two possibilities - either a continuing resolution that will extend the 2017 budget levels will pass, or the government could shut down until a solution is found.