President Biden talks to reporters before boarding Marine One to visit wounded troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center late last week.

President Biden talks to reporters before boarding Marine One to visit wounded troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center late last week. Evan Vucci / AP

Biden Unfreezes Billions at Two-Dozen Agencies, Reversing Trump's Last Minute Budget Maneuver

On his way out the door, Trump blocked agencies from accessing funds in 73 accounts.

President Biden on Sunday formally revoked his predecessor’s effort to rescind $27 billion in funding spread across two-dozen federal agencies, unfreezing the money for immediate expenditure. 

Just days before he left office, President Trump issued a rescission request under the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act. Trump had warned he would issue such a proposal when he signed the fiscal 2021 omnibus spending package in December, which narrowly averted a shutdown. His request triggered a 45-day freeze on the funds, which Biden lifted in his Sunday action. 

The previous White House, which noted the rescission package was the largest ever proposed, identified the funds as "wasteful and unnecessary spending" and amounts "no longer needed for the purposes for which they were appropriated." It focused largely on international aid efforts through the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, but the 73 targeted programs also included those related to climate research, federal student aid and renewable energy. 

The 1974 rescission law allows the president to propose to rescind funding previously approved by Congress. Lawmakers have 45 days to consider the request and if they do not act to support the rescissions during that window, the request is denied. The Office of Management and Budget can direct agencies not to spend the funding proposed for rescission for the entire 45-day period, regardless of when Congress acts. The Trump White House briefly floated a rescission in 2019 less than 45 days before the end of the fiscal year, which critics derided as illegal as it would have enabled the administration to freeze out funds from ever being spent. That followed a 2018 effort to rescind $15 billion in largely foreign aid funding, which the House approved but was narrowly rejected by the Senate. 

The most recent rescission package, where funds are now unfrozen, included accounts within the following departments and agencies:  

  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Health and Human Services
  • Homeland Security
  • Interior
  • Justice
  • Labor
  • State
  • Treasury
  • African Development Foundation
  • Commission of Fine Arts
  • Corporation for National and Community Service
  • District of Columbia
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Inter-American Foundation
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities
  • National Gallery of Art
  • Peace Corps
  • Presidio Trust
  • U.S. Agency for International Development
  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Legislative Branch