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Trump budget prizes military buildup and sweeping cuts

March 16, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
Unveiled today, President Trump's first federal budget embodies stark changes in federal spending priorities. The more-than $1.1 trillion proposal would cut funding to the EPA and the State Department by almost a third, while boosting spending for the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. John Yang takes a closer look.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Much more for the military, much less for many diplomatic and domestic programs, that’s the upshot of President Trump’s first budget unveiled today.

John Yang begins our coverage at the White House.

JOHN YANG: It runs just 53 pages, totals more than $1.1 trillion, and embodies stark changes in federal spending priorities.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney:

MICK MULVANEY, White House Budget Director: We had America first — an America first candidate. We now have an America first president. And it shouldn’t surprise anybody that we have an America first budget.

JOHN YANG: The big winners in the White House budget request? The Pentagon, with a proposed 10 percent increase, $54 billion. The Department of Homeland Security with a 7 percent hike, including $4 billion for the Mexico border wall. And the Department of Veteran Affairs, proposed to increase by 6 percent.

MICK MULVANEY: We’re $20 trillion in debt. We’re going to spend money. We’re going to spend a lot of money, but we’re not going to spend it on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises they made to people.

JOHN YANG: The biggest losers would include the Environmental Protection Agency with a proposed 31 percent cut, eliminating funding for international climate change programs and for cleanup efforts in the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes. The State Department would be cut 29 percent, mostly foreign aid and U.N. peacekeeping. And the Department of Health and Human Services is being asked to take an 18 percent cut.

While the White House wants Congress to cut Justice Department spending by 4 percent, it wants more money to target criminal organizations and hire immigration judges, at the expense of civil rights programs.

In Tokyo, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the proposed cuts in his budget are fine with him.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: Clearly, the level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking in the past, in particular this past year, is simply not sustainable.

JOHN YANG: President Trump tweeted that his budget proposal puts America first. “Must make safety its number one priority.”

It represents the biggest military buildup since the 1980s and the most sweeping reductions in other spending since World War II.

Democrats immediately condemned the budget request. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it takes from the middle class and gives to the rich.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., House Minority Leader: This budget is not a statement of values of anyone. President Trump has shown that he doesn’t value the future of our children and working families. This budget is really a slap in the face of the future.

JOHN YANG: Overall, the administration wants to eliminate funding for 19 agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, AmeriCorps and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a major funder for public radio and television.

Other points of contention are likely to be calls to eliminate community development block grants, and cut billions of dollars for teacher training, after-school and summer programs and almost $100 million from the Rural Business and Cooperative Service.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said today he wants even more money for the military. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the president’s budget is just an opening bid.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: We will have a full hearing about how our priorities will be met. But do I think we can cut spending and get waste out of government? Absolutely.

JOHN YANG: Today’s spending outline doesn’t address taxes or entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Those are to come in another budget document in May.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang at the White House.

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