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Trump Accused of Trying to 'Inflict as Much Harm as Possible' With Billions in Global Health Funding Cuts During Pandemic

"These rescissions are filled with damaging and irrational cuts to programs critical in the fight against Covid-19."

A medical worker collects a swab sample from a mother for Covid-19 tests at a hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on August 16, 2020.

A medical worker collects a swab sample from a mother for Covid-19 tests at a hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on August 16, 2020. (Photo: Michael Tewelde/Xinhua via Getty Images)

With less than a week left in the White House, President Donald Trump on Thursday presented Congress with more than $27 billion in proposed funding cuts to an array of domestic and foreign aid programs, including $4 billion from an initiative helping to distribute coronavirus vaccine doses in poor nations that have struggled to inoculate their populations due to hoarding by rich countries.

The American Prospect's David Dayen reported Friday that the "largest cut" in Trump's rescission proposal, which Congress is not required to act on, "would cancel $5.1 billion for Global Health Programs, in the middle of a pandemic."

"Represents the latest in the Trump administration's attempts to sabotage the incoming president, in ways large and small, on his way out the door." 
—David Dayen, The American Prospect

"The program 'funds activities related to child and maternal health, HIV/AIDS, and infectious diseases' (emphasis mine)," Dayen noted. "Specifically, $4 billion in cuts would defund the GAVI program, which concerns itself with vaccinations in the developing world, including the Covid vaccine. That's combined with a $2.1 billion cut to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an enormously successful effort to curb HIV/AIDS infections and deaths in the developing world."

In a letter to congressional leaders, the Trump administration attempts to justify the requested cuts on the grounds that assisting international Covid-19 vaccination campaigns detracts from efforts to inoculate the U.S. population—an argument critics say presents a "false choice" that needlessly pits people against each other and undermines the fight against a virus that has spanned the globe.

Dayen argued that the outgoing president's last-minute proposed rescission of funding approved in the omnibus spending bill he reluctantly signed into law last month "represents the latest in the Trump administration's attempts to sabotage the incoming president, in ways large and small, on his way out the door."

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"This one is easily countermanded, but only if the Biden administration takes action quickly," Dayen wrote. "Otherwise, $27.4 billion in spending, including the above-mentioned items, will be held up for the first month and a half of the Biden presidency."

In total, Trump proposed funding cuts for more than 70 programs, including, as Politico reported:

  • $1.5 billion for emergency overseas food aid;
  • Billions for scientific research, including $2 billion for the research and development of renewable energy and energy efficient technology;
  • More than $2 billion for AIDS relief;
  • More than $1 billion to assist refugees and victims of conflict worldwide;
  • $291 million to programs that promote democracy worldwide;
  • $241 million in economic support for countries across the globe;
  • $500 million in foreign military assistance;
  • $12.3 million for research on firearm mortality and injury prevention;
  • $13 million for the National Institutes of Health;
  • $430 million for cultural exchange programs;
  • $181 million for climate research programs at NOAA; and
  • Hundreds of millions in federal student aid.

In a statement Thursday, House Budget Committee Chair Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said that "these out-the-door funding cuts are a clear attempt by President Trump to inflict as much harm as possible before he leaves the White House."

"These rescissions are filled with damaging and irrational cuts to programs critical in the fight against Covid-19, climate change, and strengthening America's global leadership," said Yarmuth. "They contradict the bipartisan agreement achieved by Congress and signed into law by President Trump himself."

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