Trump’s budget proposal sets up another shutdown battle




Donald Trump

While President Donald Trump’s proposal is just an opening offer in the budget debate that will play out in the coming months, the White House’s stance on levels for the two main buckets of funding forecasts a fierce fight ahead with leaders in Congress. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

President Donald Trump sent his annual budget vision to Congress on Monday, starting a new battle over how to fund the government that sets up the nation for an even more destructive shutdown when money runs out later this year.

The president’s plan seeks deep cuts from agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department. At the same time it would spend $8.6 billion on a border wall with Mexico and boost defense spending to $750 billion, both items sure to raise intense opposition from Democrats.

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Calling for a total of $2.7 trillion in reductions over 10 years, the Trump administration is also taking aim at safety net programs, including hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare and a request to drum up savings by imposing new restrictions on food stamps, housing assistance and aid to families that don’t make enough money to provide for their children.

Trump’s budget would impose mandatory work requirements for millions of people who receive welfare assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid and housing programs.

It seeks to cut $220 billion from food stamps over the course of a decade, once again promoting the Trump administration’s widely panned harvest box proposal, which would take billions in SNAP benefits that are spent in grocery stores and divert the money to supplying low-income people with boxes of wholesale staple foods.

The budget assumes robust economic growth of 3 percent over the next decade thanks to the 2017 GOP tax overhaul. But that’s a far more generous outlook than the waning growth of the tax law projected by the Congressional Budget Office earlier this year.

Driven by those optimistic assumptions, the White House aims to balance the budget within 15 years. But at the same time, the plan would grow the federal deficit by about $1.1 trillion in the next fiscal year, projecting trillion dollar deficits for three years after that.

While the president’s proposal is just an opening offer in the budget debate that will play out in the coming months, the White House’s stance on levels for the two main buckets of funding — defense and non-defense money — forecasts a fierce fight ahead with leaders in Congress.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the president’s budget is “divorced from reality. It is not worth the paper it is printed on, and it will be rejected by Congress.”

“This is not a serious proposal. President Trump should work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to reach a bipartisan budget agreement so we can begin the fiscal year 2020 appropriations process,” said Leahy.

Trump is calling for a 5 percent cut to current caps for non-military spending, coupled with a boost to $750 billion for national defense programs. But congressional Democrats continue to demand funding for non-defense programs grow beyond those caps at the same rate as military funding.

Overall, Trump wants to slash nearly $30 billion in this year’s budget from fiscal 2019 spending limits for non-defense programs.

A senior administration official told reporters on a call before the budget was released that the White House is “signaling in this budget that the paradigm” of matching defense and non-defense increases is “no longer — and hasn’t been for some time — affordable for the country.”

But the administration is “ruling nothing out other than the fact that we can no longer afford the bills that have been sent to us from Congress,” the official said. “Congress may have a different view. And we’re open to that conversation. We have an open mind. We don’t have an empty mind.”

The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), pushed back against the plan. “President Trump’s budget once again lays out an irresponsible and cynical vision for our country, without any regard for its human cost,” Yarmuth said in a statement.

““It is disheartening to see a budget that would dismantle so many programs that people rely on every day,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on health, labor and education, said in a statement.

The White House is employing an accounting trick to secure a funding boost for the military that averts set spending limits for defense programs.

The defense boost will pay for Trump’s Space Force, 12 battle force ships and 110 fighter aircraft. The request will also pay for a 3.1 percent military pay raise, the largest in a decade, the White House notes.

The budget asks for $21 billion for NASA, which is a 2 percent decrease from the $21.5 billion approved by Congress last month but an increase from the administration’s $19.9 billion request in fiscal 2019. The White House vows to “achieve lunar exploration goals sooner.”

Trump’s plan also seeks a major boost for border security, requesting $8.6 billion for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border — divvying it up with $5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and $3.6 billion for ongoing military construction. The request is far more money than the president’s $5.7 billion demand that launched a five-week government shutdown. The budget also calls for $506 million to hire more than 2,800 additional law enforcement officers.

The budget calls for $506 million to hire more than 2,800 additional law enforcement officers. And it would fund a yearly average of 54,000 detention beds, a 19 percent increase over the 45,274 beds provided in a spending package Congress passed in February.

Trump’s budget plan would deeply cut domestic programs across the federal government, particularly at agencies like the State Department, the Transportation Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, USDA and the Interior Department.

Ahead of the budget release, acting OMB Director Russell Vought highlighted “wasteful, duplicative, and ineffective programs” in an op-ed for Fox News “that should not be funded by your tax dollars.”

Vought will elaborate on the overall proposal during testimony before the House Budget Committee on Tuesday and before the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday.

As with the last two years, Trump’s budget requests $200 billion for infrastructure over the next 10 years. A senior administration official stressed ahead of the budget release that the White House still wants to work with Congress on a broad infrastructure package this year.

And while the plan looks to cut the Education Department’s budget by 12 percent, it also looks to create a $50 billion school choice program over the course of a decade that would expand access to private schools for low-income families.

It also calls for a one-time investment of $1 billion to expand access to child care for underserved families.

The budget request calls for slashing HHS funding by 12 percent in fiscal 2020 to $87.1 billion and assumes that Congress will succeed in repealing and replacing Obamacare. Public health initiatives would get a substantial boost, including the Trump administration’s new goal of ending HIV transmission in the U.S. over the next decade. But the budget would seek big cuts to global HIV initiatives.

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