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Chairman Yarmuth on White House Effort to Block Funds, Punish States & Cities Amid a Pandemic

Sep 3, 2020

Washington, D.C.— Today, Kentucky Representative John Yarmuth, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, released the following statement condemning efforts by the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to dictate state and local policy by withholding federal funds from jurisdictions the Administration deems unworthy of support. The White House’s five-page memo directs OMB to provide guidance to federal agencies for restricting funding to cities that “defund” their police departments and any locality the Attorney General considers an “an anarchist jurisdiction.”

“While this new memo is clearly a campaign ad on White House letterhead, we cannot be so quick to dismiss it or naive enough to think that just because it has no legal merit, the Administration will not try to enforce it,” said Chairman Yarmuth. “The Trump Administration has a well-documented history of degrading our system of checks and balances and systematically weaponizing the executive branch to consolidate power and advance the President’s self-interests.

“This White House’s alarming threat to hold state and local funds hostage amid a pandemic and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression is an abuse of power, a slap to our federalist system, and a clear abdication of the President’s responsibility to all Americans. The House Budget Committee will continue our work to protect Congress’ power of the purse and ensure Americans’ tax dollars are spent in accordance with the needs of the American people and the laws of our nation”

This memo comes shortly after the White House pushed to sideline career officials at OMB in favor of political appointees, an action Chairman Yarmuth called “a deliberate and disturbing step by the Trump Administration to consolidate power among political cronies, undermine Congress, and silence anyone who might stand in their way.”

Chairman Yarmuth has already introduced legislation, the Congressional Power of the Purse Act, to protect Congress’ constitutional spending authority and increase transparency of the executive branch. The bill will require OMB to make apportionments publicly available, as well as publish the positions of officials with delegated apportionment authority and explain reasons for any changes in delegated authority. The bill will also strengthen existing budget and appropriations law, adding teeth to deter lawbreaking.