Jim Risch

White House lifts pause on State, USAID spending
The move comes after a flurry of congressional criticism of OMB's funding freeze

The White House has agreed to release certain State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding after it had been temporarily frozen. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House has released certain funds appropriated for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development that over the weekend had been temporarily frozen, a senior administration official said Friday.

The action comes after the Office of Management and Budget told those two agencies to cease spending for a range of programs that still have unobligated fiscal 2018 and 2019 balances, and would otherwise expire if not spent by Sept. 30.

White House blocks foreign aid funds, demands accounting
Affected money could total $4 billion appropriated for public health, peacekeeping, development and diplomacy programs

The White House budget office has directed the U.S. Agency for International Development, led by Mark Green, above, to cease spending for a range of programs while the administration reviews how much money is left in the various accounts. (Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit file photo)

For the second year in a row, the White House appears to be considering canceling billions of dollars in appropriated foreign aid funding at a time when Congress would be hard-pressed to block such a move.

Over the weekend, the Office of Management and Budget wrote to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development directing the foreign aid agency to cease spending for a range of programs that still have unobligated fiscal 2018 and 2019 balances and would otherwise expire if not spent by Sept. 30.

Risch drops Saudi measure; panel backs Menendez sanctions bill
Sends strong message of displeasure with the Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, left, withdrew his own Saudi legislation after the committee voted to amend it by adding a sanctions bill from ranking member Robert Menendez, D-N.J., right. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday advanced to the floor bipartisan legislation that would impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, though the panel’s chairman said he would “absolutely not” recommend it be brought up for a vote.

Chairman Jim Risch withdrew his own Saudi legislation after the committee voted to amend it by adding ranking member Robert Menendez’s sanctions bill to it. In the end, only the Menendez bill was reported to the floor.

State Department aides won’t rule out existing authorizations allowing for attack on Iran
Officials would not commit on seeking congressional approval for military action, either

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, left, and ranking member Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., look to reconcile differences over congressional authorization for the use of military force. (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senior State Department officials wouldn’t commit to a Senate panel Wednesday that the Trump administration will seek congressional authorization for a potential military conflict with Iran, nor would they promise that existing military authorizations would not be reinterpreted to allow attacks on Iran.

Rather, the Trump administration officials said they would consult and inform lawmakers of any administration plans to carry out military strikes on Iran, including actions related to the defense of U.S. troops and partner forces.

Marco Rubio aims to boost small biz, counter China, with SBA reauthorization
Florida GOP senator is chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Even if you follow Congress, you might not realize that Sen. Marco Rubio is the chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

But the Florida Republican has been active with that part of his portfolio too, this week unveiling a chairman’s mark for what would be the first full reauthorization and overhaul of the Small Business Administration in almost 20 years, and holding a field hearing on the role of small businesses in the Sunshine State’s space industry.

White House threatens to veto resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales
Senate sends 22 resolutions disapproving of sales to Saudis and UAE to the House where they have good prospects for passage

President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office in 2017. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

The White House said Thursday it would veto Senate-passed measures to block its proposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries.

“The transfer of these capabilities and services to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan directly supports the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of friendly countries that continue to be important forces for political and economic stability in the Middle East,” according to a statement of administration policy memo.

Senate rejects Paul bid to block arms sales to Bahrain, Qatar

A bid by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to block arms sales to Qatar and Bahrain fell short on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate on Thursday rejected a bid by Sen. Rand Paul to block arms sales to Qatar and Bahrain even as senators brace for a more contentious debate next week over proposed weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The vote Thursday means the proposed sales — a $3 billion Apache Helicopter package for Qatar and a $750 million munitions package to support Bahrain’s F-16 fleet — can go forward.

Democrats spar with State official over arms sales maneuver

Rep. David Cicilline accused a senior State Department official of gas-lighting Congress in his assertions about why the administration needed to subvert Congress on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A senior State Department official on Wednesday appeared to blame Democrats for the administration’s decision last month to declare a state of emergency over Iran to avoid congressional review of billions of dollars of weapon sales to Arab Gulf states.

R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, attributed the emergency order to holds placed in spring 2018 by Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez on $2 billion in proposed precision-guided missile sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Menendez, D-N.J., placed the holds in response to the many civilian casualties in the Yemen civil war, in which the two Gulf nations are fighting against Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents.

US could be at war by the time Congress returns from recess, Udall says
Democrats force votes on approving war with Iran, but come up short in the Senate

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is worried that the United States may be at war with Iran by the time Congress returns from recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill have been forcing votes on President Donald Trump’s military powers this week amid the ratcheting up of tensions with Iran, getting predictably disparate results.

In the latest test, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday turned back a Democrat-led effort to move legislation designed to thwart preemptive military action against Iran.

Iran escalations bring war powers debates back to the Capitol
Sen. Tim Kaine expects debate behind closed doors at the Armed Services Committee

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch says President Donald Trump “doesn’t need any more authority than what he’s got” to respond to a potential attack. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)k

A Senate briefing by the Trump administration Tuesday about the escalation in tensions with Iran appears certain to kick off another round of sparring over the president’s war powers.

When asked last week whether President Donald Trump could strike Iran using existing authorities from the authorization for use of military force that was enacted after 9/11, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reflected on the history of disputes between the executive and legislative branches.