The State Department is reviewing a last-minute decision by former Secretary of State John Kerry to send $221 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the final hours of the Obama administration, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
On Monday, the same news agency revealed that former President Barack Obama defied Republican opposition and quietly released the money to the PA just before Donald Trump became president.
The State Department said on Tuesday it would look at the payment and could make adjustments to ensure it complies with the Trump administration's priorities.
Congress had initially approved the funding to the PA in budget years 2015 and 2016, but at least two GOP lawmakers — Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee — had placed holds on it in response to moves the PA had taken to seek membership in international organizations.
Congressional holds are generally respected by the executive branch but are not legally binding after funds have been allocated.
Granger released a statement Tuesday saying, according to AP, "I am deeply disappointed that President Obama defied congressional oversight and released $221 million to the Palestinian territories."
"I worked to make sure that no American taxpayer dollars would fund the Palestinian Authority unless very strict conditions were met. While none of these funds will go to the Palestinian Authority because of those conditions, they will go to programs in the Palestinian territories that were still under review by Congress. The Obama Administration's decision to release these funds was inappropriate," she added.
In recent years, Washington has several times froze – and subsequently released – some of the aid it provides to the PA.
In September of 2011, a $192 million aid package was frozen by Congress after the PA submitted a failed unilateral bid for United Nations membership.
Members of Congress later released $40 million in economic and humanitarian funding for the PA, saying it is “vital to establishing and strengthening the foundations necessary for a future Palestinian state.”
In April of 2012, Obama bypassed a Congress block and signed a waiver declaring that aid to the PA is “important to the security interests of the United States.”