Congressional Republicans are blocking $40 million in aid that the Biden administration has requested to help stabilize Haiti amid an increase in gang violence there, despite warnings that continued chaos could lead to a humanitarian crisis and drive migrants fleeing the country into the United States.

The top Republicans on the House and Senate foreign affairs committees, which have approval power over the money, have pressed the State Department to detail how it will be spent. They have expressed concern that American taxpayer dollars could fall into the hands of the groups that have led the violent uprising.

The State Department requested the funding last year as part of $100 million it had pledged for a multinational security support mission in Haiti, approved by the United Nations Security Council, to be led by Kenya. The Kenyan government agreed to deploy security forces into Haiti while other countries, including the United States, offered funding, equipment and logistical support.

Another $100 million was to come from the Defense Department. The foreign aid portion requires approval by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee.

But Republicans in Congress balked at the administration’s initial $50 million request, which a G.O.P. aide for the House panel said was a single page and did contain specific information regarding its use. Despite concerns, they agreed to release $10 million in December for costs already incurred since the mission was approved but withheld the remaining $40 million, demanding a more detailed plan about how it would be allocated.

Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said it was not clear whether agreements established under former Prime Minister Ariel Henry of Haiti, who resigned amid the upheaval, are still valid, or how the mission hopes to safely get international forces into the country.

“The human suffering and devolving crisis in Haiti is tragic,” Mr. Risch said last week in a joint statement with Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “Yet, after years of discussions, repeated requests for information and providing partial funding to help them plan, the administration only this afternoon sent us a rough plan to address this crisis.”

State Department officials said they had engaged with both committees several times to address concerns and continue to provide updates on how the already released funds have been spent.

“The State Department continues to engage congressional committees and has provided 68 briefings to staff and members on this topic since May 2023,” the State Department said in a statement. “We have provided Congress with clear breakdowns and frequent updates on the expenditure of this $10 million.”

It said the additional $40 million would “ensure the success” of the mission, including by covering equipment and personnel costs.

While the discussions between Congress and the State Department drag on, gang attacks against critical infrastructure in Haiti’s capital have sent the country deeper into the throes of political violence and chaos not seen in decades. The United Nations says more than 362,000 people are internally displaced and the country is nearing a humanitarian crisis.

Some Republicans say they are concerned that sending aid and support absent a clear plan, given the history of corruption in Haiti, could make the situation worse. A coalition of gangs continues to wield influence while the country lacks a credible leader.

“What they’re asking me to do is release $50 million of cash and weapons to go into Haiti with no governance,” Mr. McCaul said during an interview on Fox News on Sunday. “We have a history in this country of throwing weapons and guns into countries and they backfire. Until I have assurances that the money can be accounted for and go to the right purpose, I cannot in good conscience release that funding for the American taxpayer, but most importantly, the Haitian people themselves.”

Late last year a group of Democrats also expressed concern over U.S. support for an armed intervention in Haiti. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Representatives Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, Yvette D. Clarke of New York and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick of Florida, the Democrats who lead the House Haiti Caucus, said the Kenyan-led security operation lacked “a clear mission and strategy.” They urged a withdrawal of “support for military intervention” and said the priority should be “a representative transitional government in Haiti.”

But since Mr. Henry’s resignation, and amid the rise in violence and a dire humanitarian crisis, much of that skepticism has given way to calls for fully funding the international mission.

“In December, my colleagues and I had concerns over the lack of strategy and understanding of how this funding would be executed,” Ms. Clarke said on Tuesday. “Now that the situation has become more dire, it’s imperative that we send these funds to help support efforts to help return stability and democracy to Haiti.”

She joined a growing number of Democrats arguing that a delay could further destabilize the country and lead to thousands of Haitians attempting to enter the United States, adding more pressure on an already strained border.

“Congress must release funding for urgent assistance to restore security and stability for the Haitian people and prevent another migrant crisis,” Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, wrote in a social media post last week.

In a letter, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, called on Speaker Mike Johnson and Mr. McCaul to release the funds.

“The situation on the ground in Haiti has rapidly deteriorated while House Republicans have refused to deliver the resources necessary to carry out this mission,” Mr. Jeffries wrote. “Now is the time to release the full $50 million in security support.”


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Credit: NYTimes.com

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