BY JORDAN FABIAN AND SYLVAN LANE
03/16/17 the hill
President Trump on Thursday made public his first federal budget blueprint, revealing a plan to dramatically reduce the size of government.
The document calls for deep cuts at departments and agencies that would eliminate entire programs and slash the size of the federal workforce. It also proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending, which the White House says will be offset by the other cuts.
Trump is demanding a 28 percent reduction in the State Department’s budget, a cut that White House budget director Mick Mulvaney conceded was “fairly dramatic.” The departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Energy, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development would see major cuts, as would the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose budget is reportedly being cut by 31 percent.
The sweeping cuts would axe programs that help the poor, fund research on climate change and science and provide aid to foreign countries.
Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities would be terminated, along with money for more than a dozen other agencies.
The budget directs several agencies to shift resources toward fighting terrorism and cybercrime, enforcing sanctions, cracking down on illegal immigration and preventing government waste.
The proposals in the request are based off the words of Trump himself, according to Mulvaney, who said he and his staff pored over the president’s speeches and news articles and had multiple conversations with him during the process.
“This is the ‘America First’ budget,” Mulvaney told reporters on Wednesday, adding that “if he said it in the campaign, it’s in the budget.”
The plan, however, is expected to be met with resistance on both sides of the aisle, all but ensuring it will not be passed in its current form.
Many Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have balked at the steep cuts to the State Department and other domestic agencies. Republican national security hawks have said defense spending isn’t being increased enough. And fiscal conservatives have questioned why the plan doesn’t address the main drivers of the national debt: entitlement programs.
But Mulvaney assured skittish lawmakers the blueprint for fiscal year 2018 is just the beginning. He said a full budget would be released in May containing the president’s plan for programs like Medicare and Social Security. It will also contain 10-year projections for taxes and spending.
Trump pledged on the campaign trail not to cut those two entitlement programs. Mulvaney has previously signaled the president may be open to cuts, but said Wednesday that Trump “is going to keep the promises he kept regarding those programs.”
Presidential budgets typically amount to nothing more than guidance for Congress, which controls the power of the purse. Lawmakers usually pass their own budgets — not the president’s. President Obama’s 2015 budget, for example, was defeated in the Senate 98-1.
The document, if adopted, would fundamentally alter a bipartisan set of spending rules, known as the sequester, brokered in a 2011 deal between President Obama and Congress.
That agreement capped discretionary spending across the federal government, which affected defense and non-defense spending equally.
But Trump has said he wants to forge ahead with a major military buildup, and the blueprint offers the first detailed view of Trump’s plans to boost the armed forces and ramp up enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.
The budget calls for a 10 percent increase in defense spending over current levels. The Pentagon would see its budget go up by 9 percent, while Veterans Affairs would receive a 6 percent increase, according to the document.
The Department of Homeland Security, which is charged with border security, apprehending undocumented immigrants and deporting them, would see a 7 percent boost.
“There is no question this is a hard-power budget,” said Mulvaney. “It is not a soft-power budget.”
The budget requests $1.5 billion to detain and remove undocumented immigrants, and $314 million to hire 500 new Border Patrol officers and 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
Trump will also ask lawmakers for $2.6 billion for his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, on top of $1.5 billion he is requesting for it in a supplemental spending measure for this year.
Senate Democratic leaders warned Republicans this week they may block bills that fund the border wall or create a so-called “deportation force” to round up undocumented immigrants.
Many of the proposed cuts should please conservatives, such as the reductions at the EPA that could result in the loss of more than 3,000 jobs and elimination of more than 50 programs, according to the Post. NASA and the State Department would also lose funding for programs to fight and study climate change.
Long reviled by conservatives, the Internal Revenue Service would get a $239 million cut, despite Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s request for more funding.
The Education Department would receive $1.4 billion to invest in public charter schools and private schools, even as its overall budget is cut by 14 percent.
But other numbers appear to contradict some of Trump’s top priorities. One of his campaign pledges was to work to cure diseases, but the National Institutes of Health will reportedly see $5.8 billion slashed from its budget.
Trump calls for a 13 percent cut to the Transportation Department, which would ostensibly play a big role in Trump’s promised infrastructure overhaul. That includes $500 million from the TIGER grant program, which provides funding for road and bridge projects.
The budget doesn’t lay out a plan for Trump’s infrastructure plan, but Mulvaney said the money would be put toward programs deemed more efficient.
Departments and agencies seeing overall cuts could receive funding boosts for defense capabilities. For example, the Energy Department would receive more money to maintain the nation’s nuclear weapons system even as its science and climate-related programs are cut.