Trump budget seeks to boost defense spending, slash State Department and EPA
President Donald Trump’s budget proposal would boost spending for defense, border security and law enforcement while making major cuts from a number of domestic government programs, including the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency — a plan that reflects promises from the campaign and early in his presidency to make the government cheaper and more efficient.
The proposal asks Congress for a $54 billion increase for the Pentagon — 10 percent more than its budget last fiscal year — and a 6 percent boost for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes $2.6 billion for Trump’s promised wall along the Mexican border, a signature campaign promise.
To offset that spending, Trump is seeking a 28 percent cut in State Department funding, much of it from foreign aid, along with a 31-percent reduction from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Trump administration took an ax to the State Department and the USAID — cutting more than $10 billion across those agencies combined. This guts climate change policy work with foreign nations and is designed to “reduce foreign assistance” and “free up funding for critical priorities here at home and put America first,” according to the proposal.
In absolute dollars, the White House made its deepest cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services, reducing funding by $15 billion. The White House says it wanted to eliminate “programs that are duplicative or have limited impact on public health and well-being.” The White House wants to slash $5.8 billion from National Institutes of Health, which would involve a major reorganization of the agency. The budget also cuts nurse training and low-income home energy and emergency food assistance programs.
The Congressional Budget Office projected a $488 billion deficit in the next spending year. Trump’s budget as proposed would not add to the deficit, Office of Budget and Management director Mick Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney characterized the cuts — which would also affect the Department of Housing and Urban Development — as some of “the most inefficient, most wasteful, most indefensible programs” in the federal government.
But critics said Trump’s plans would leave the budget “possibly emaciated,” and they also didn’t address other long-term deficit issues he’d encounter down the road.
Mulvaney said he assembled the $1 trillion spending outline for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 by drawing directly from Mr. Trump’s campaign speeches, interviews and other statements. “We turned his policies into numbers,” he told reporters at a news briefing Wednesday. “If he said it in the campaign, it’s in the budget.”
The document, which will be released later Thursday, covers only the spending that’s determined each year by Congress — what’s called “discretionary spending”– and not the other $3 trillion in annual federal spending that’s set by permanent law, known as “mandatory spending.”
Mandatory spending includes such so-called entitlements as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Those details will come in a bigger budget document due in May.
The White House budget blueprint also does not reflect possible tax cuts or the passage of the health care bill currently working its way through Congress.
The document is a request to Congress, which decides the actual spending through the annual appropriations process. It proposes overall spending for federal agencies, while giving Cabinet secretaries and agency heads wide latitude in how to spend it, Mulvaney said.
Earlier this week, Trump ordered a review of every executive department and agency, an effort to improve efficiency, cut waste and “eliminate unnecessary agencies.” Department heads will submit their proposals to Trump in six months.
Mulvaney said Trump arrived at $54 billion for the Pentagon through conversations with Defense Secretary James Mattis to ensure that it could be spent effectively. “We are not just throwing money at a problem and saying that we have solved it,” the former South Carolina congressman said.
In addition, the administration is asking Congress for an additional $30 billion in the current spending year for the Pentagon and Homeland Security, Mulvaney said. Included in that request is $1.5 billion for the border wall. The design of the wall and where construction will begin has yet to be determined, the budget director said.
Much of the reduction in State Department funding reflects big cuts in foreign aid. “We believe we have protected the core diplomatic function of State,” Mulvaney said. “This is a ‘hard-power’ budget” that shifts money from “soft-power” functions like economic aid to other countries to “hard-power” like military weaponry and troops, he said.
At the EPA, Mulvaney said cuts would reflect the president’s world view by reducing spending in areas such as climate change and alternative energies. The Associated Press reported last week that HUD could face as much as $6 billion in cuts.
While seeking a 1 percent cut in the NASA budget, Trump is also calling for an increase in spending on space exploration by making other savings at the agency, Mulvaney said.
In addition, Mulvaney said the administration wants to end federal support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the current spending year, which ends Sept. 30. The chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts told staff Wednesday the budget would also eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, according to the New York Times.
Trump’s proposal is sure to land with a thud on Capitol Hill, and not just with opposition Democrats outraged over cuts to pet programs such as renewable energy, climate change research and rehabilitation of housing projects.
Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts is slamming proposed budget cuts to the IRS, an agency that is down more than 17,000 employees since 2010.
“We have seen in recent years that when IRS funding goes down, call wait times rise for taxpayers,” the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee said.
“Congressional Republicans have been saying they want the IRS to be more focused on customer service, but slashing funding for the agency by hundreds of millions of dollars would result in the exact opposite outcome,” he added.President Donald Trump proposed budget would cut the agency’s funding by $239 million from this year’s spending level. The agency’s budget of about $11 billion is about $1 billion less than it was in 2010.
Republicans like Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio are irate over planned elimination of a program to restore the Great Lakes. Top Republicans like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee are opposed to drastic cuts to foreign aid. And even GOP defense hawks like Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry of Texas aren’t satisfied with the $54 billion increase for the military.
Before the two sides go to war over Trump’s 2018 plan, they need to clean up more than $1.1 trillion in unfinished agency budgets for the current year. A temporary catchall spending bill expires April 28; negotiations have barely started and could get hung up over Trump’s request for the wall and additional border patrol and immigration enforcement agents, just for starters.
Some of the most politically sensitive domestic programs would be spared, including food aid for pregnant women and their children, housing vouchers for the poor, aid for special education and school districts for the poor, and federal aid to historically black colleges and universities.
But the National Institutes of Health would absorb a $5.8 billion cut despite Trump’s talk in a recent address to Congress of finding “cures to the illnesses that have always plagued us.” Subsidies for airlines serving rural airports in Trump strongholds would be eliminated. It would also shut down Amtrak’s money-losing long-distance routes and kill off a popular $500 million per-year “TIGER Grant” program for highway projects created by Obama.
Data Producer Laura Santhanam and the Associated Press contributed to this report.