Chairs Yarmuth, Lowey, and Maloney Press OMB and Agencies to Comply with GAO Inquiries into WHO Funding

Jun 30, 2020

*UPDATE: The House Budget Committee receieved responses from EPAUSAID, OMB, and HHS.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, and House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney pressed Administration officials to fully cooperate with inquiries by the independent and nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) about the Administration’s hold on funding for the World Health Organization (WHO).

In letters to agencies directly responsible for WHO funding—the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—the Chairs wrote to the Administrators and Secretaries about their  “significant obligations, including compliance with bedrock fiscal statutes like the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (“ICA”) and the responsibility to cooperate with inquiries and investigations by the independent and nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (“GAO”).”

The Chairs wrote, “We understand that GAO has recently contacted you about information about agency’s approach to funding for the World Health Organization (“WHO”).  President Trump’s recent statements on funding for the WHO have caused concerns that the President is once again trying to usurp the powers of Congress and raised the possibility that pressure is being put on you to violate your legal obligations and breach the public’s trust.”

Yarmuth, Lowey, and Maloney also warned that the Trump Administration’s history of obstruction and refusal to cooperate with GAO requests has put the Committees on “high alert for any failure by the Departments to cooperate with GAO.”  The Chairs recognized that “OMB may improperly seek to interfere with your exercise of the authorities granted to you by law or obstruct your cooperation with GAO” and reminded Department heads “that, like the authorities the law delegates to you, the responsibility to cooperate with GAO’s investigation rests personally on you and your delegates in the agency” and that “[a]n inappropriate, ultra vires direction from officials at OMB is not an excuse” to breach responsibilities or impede compliance with the ICA or with GAO’s requests.

In a separate letter to Russell Vought, Acting Director of OMB, the Chairs noted that over the past year, GAO “identified multiple occasions upon which [OMB] broke the law and breached the public’s trust, including by violating the [ICA] by facilitating the President’s hold on security assistance to Ukraine. … These past failures underscore how important it is for OMB to change course and comply with budget and appropriations laws going forward.”

The Chairs wrote to Vought that they “feel compelled to remind you that Executive Branch compliance with GAO inquiries is an essential source of transparency in funds administration and failing to comply would flout this important constitutional check.”

All five letters give agencies and departments until July 7, 2020, to provide written confirmation that they “will cooperate with all inquiries from GAO related to funding to the WHO.”

Links to all letters can be found here:

As the primary committees charged with overseeing annual funding decisions, the ICA, GAO, and oversight of the Executive Branch, Chairs Yarmuth, Lowey, and Maloney are committed to strengthening and protecting Congress’ constitutional power of the purse. Chairman Yarmuth recently introduced the Congressional Power of the Purse Act, of which Chairwomen Lowey and Maloney are original cosponsors, to both increase executive transparency and add teeth to the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (ICA).

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