FAQ: Rescission

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Manager, Policy and Advocacy at Global Health Council.

What is rescission?

Rescission is a rescinding, or canceling, of appropriated funds.

The rescission process was put in place in the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Congress will use rescission in annual spending bills, but it is rarely used by the President. The Clinton administration was the last to use this budget tool.

Rescission is a way for a president to cut funding to specific accounts, but it requires Congressional approval. A line item veto, which President Trump is in favor of, would allow a president to cut provisions in an appropriations bill without Congressional approval. The line item veto was ruled unconstitutional during the Bush administration because of how it was written.

What is the process for rescission?

The President sends to Congress “special messages” that includes one or more rescission proposals. The President cannot propose the same rescission in more than one special message.

Congress has 45 legislative days, or days when Congress is in session, to act on the proposal. This could drag the process out even longer, and during this time the President can “impound” funding meaning, funding that is included in the rescission proposal could not be spent. This could impact many U.S. government-funded projects managed by GHC members. Because of this and the fact that few days remain in this fiscal year (which ends September 30), Congress could stay in session, essentially making it 45 calendar days.

During the 45 days, the House and Senate appropriations committees have 25 days to approve, disapprove, or amend the request. If the committees fail to take action, the measure is discharged and will go to the full House or Senate for a vote. If the committees disapprove the package, the process will stop.

A simple majority vote in the House and Senate is needed to pass the rescissions. If Congress does not approve the measure, the process ends. If 45 days elapse and Congress has not taken action, the President must release any impounded funds.

Why is President Trump proposing rescissions?

President Trump was not happy signing the $1.3 trillion omnibus package that Congress passed in mid-March, especially after media reports focused on the large increase in spending. The final spending package for FY 2018 was $113 billion more than President Trump proposed in his budget.

The President has said that he will not sign an omnibus again.

How much has the Trump administration proposed to rescind?

It is expected that the administration will send a special message to Congress on May 7. This “first round” of rescissions is expected to total about $11 billion, a significant decrease from up to $60 billion previously mentioned. This package will target unobligated funds, appropriated but unspent funding, from fiscal years prior to FY 2018. The International Affairs Budget is expected to be targeted.

Another special message could come later this month. It is assumed that additional rescissions would target accounts for which the President recommended cuts in his FY 2018 budget. For FY 2018, the President’s budget recommended up to 30% cuts in the International Affairs Budget.

Will Congress pass rescissions?

With the exception of fiscal conservatives in the House, Congress is against rescissions. Members are concerned about reneging on the negotiations with Democrats to pass a final bill, endangering future bipartisan negotiations, as well as the effect this will have on the work of federal agencies. During the Senate Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee hearing with USAID Administrator Mark Green, Senator Lindsey Graham said,  “If you send a rescissions package over here…that guts the State Department, we are gonna kill [it].”

What can you do?

As the special messages are sent to Capitol Hill, GHC will monitor and notify GHC members of any actions that need to be taken.