Former U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas / AP

Former U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas / AP

January 24, 2017 9:26 am

Hours before President Donald Trump took the oath of office, the Obama administration directed $221 million to be sent to the Palestinian Authority, undercutting Republican opposition in Congress to the money transfer.

The State Department, still under the helm of Secretary of State John Kerry at the time, informed GOP members of Congress of the action on the morning of President Trump’s inauguration, according to the Associated Press.

A State Department official and several congressional aides said the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning. The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday. The aides said written notification dated Jan. 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office.

The money to send to the Palestinians had initially been approved by Congress in 2015 and 2016, but a group of Republican lawmakers objected to the appropriation. Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Kay Granger (R., Texas), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, had placed a hold on the money after actions by the Palestinian Authority to gain membership to certain international organizations.

Congressional holds are not binding actions but are generally respected by the executive branch. In this instance, however, President Obama had been working to find a way to get the money to the Palestinian Authority, the AP reported.

The Obama administration had for some time been pressing for the release of the money for the Palestinian Authority, which comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development and is to be used for humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza, to support political and security reforms as well as help prepare for good governance and the rule of law in a future Palestinian state, according to the notification sent to Congress.

In the same notification, the Obama administration also informed Congress that it would be releasing $4 million for climate change initiatives and $1.25 million for a variety of United Nations programs.