Trump's proposed budget boosts military but cuts GOP, Dem favorites

Posted at 5:12 PM, Mar 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-16 19:12:19-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's new $1.15 trillion budget would reshape America's government with the broad, conservative strokes he promised as a candidate, ordering generous increases for the military, slashing domestic programs and riling both fellow Republicans and Democrats by going after favored programs.

The president's initial budget proposal, submitted to Congress on Thursday, would boost defense spending by $54 billion, the largest increase since Ronald Reagan's military buildup of the 1980s. That means deep cuts elsewhere — the environment, agriculture, the arts — but Trump said that's imperative to take on the Islamic State group and others in a dangerous world.

"To keep Americans safe, we have made the tough choices that have been put off for too long," he declared in a statement titled "America First" that accompanied the budget.

Or, as Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said, "This is a hard power budget, not a soft power budget."

It's not entirely in line with Trump's campaign pledges.

It would make a big down payment on the U.S.-Mexico border wall, which Trump repeatedly promised the Mexicans would pay for. American taxpayers will, at least for now. Thursday's proposal calls for an immediate $1.4 billion infusion with an additional $2.6 billion planned for the 2018 budget year starting Oct. 1.

Parts of Trump's spending plan for the next fiscal year angered both congressional Democrats and Republicans who will have the final say on it.

While it targets Democratic priorities like housing, community development and the environment, it also would slash GOP sacred cows like aid to rural schools and subsidized airline service to Trump strongholds, and it would raise fees on participants in the federal flood insurance program.

The budget pursues frequent targets of the GOP's staunchest conservatives, eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, legal aid for the poor, low-income heating assistance and the AmeriCorps national service program established by President Bill Clinton.

But Midwestern Republicans including Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio were upset by cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Southern Republicans like Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky lashed out at cuts he called "draconian, careless and counterproductive."

One target of the budget is the Appalachian Regional Commission, which helps communities in the region.

Trump's proposal covers only roughly one-fourth of the approximately $4 trillion total federal budget. This is the discretionary portion that Congress passes each year, not addressing taxes, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Nor does it make predictions about deficits and the economy. Those big-picture details are due in May, and are sure to show large — probably permanent — budget deficits. Trump has vowed not to cut Social Security and Medicare and is dead set against raising taxes.

As for Thursday's proposal, Republicans praised the president for beefing up the Pentagon, but they were far less enthusiastic about accepting Trump's recipe for doing so without adding to the nation's $20 trillion debt.

"While we support more funding for our military and defense, we must maintain support for our farmers and ranchers," said North Dakota Republican John Hoeven, blasting a 21 percent cut to the Agriculture Department's budget.

The proposed budget would close numerous county offices that help farmers and rural residents navigate farm subsidy and rural development programs. Rural development and water projects would also bear cuts.

"I just want to make sure that rural America, who was very supportive to Trump, doesn't have to take a disproportionately high cut," said Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.

Budget Director Mulvaney acknowledged that passing the cuts could be an uphill struggle and said the administration would negotiate.

"This is not a take-it-or-leave-it budget," he acknowledged.

Many of Trump's GOP allies on Capitol Hill gave it only grudging praise, if any.

"Congress has the power of the purse," reminded House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. "I look forward to reviewing this," said House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

"Many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President's 'skinny budget' are draconian, careless and counterproductive," said Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

Law enforcement agencies like the FBI would be spared. In addition to the billions for the border wall, there is a request for $1.2 billion for the current budget year for additional border patrol and immigration control agents.

More than 3,000 EPA workers would lose their jobs and programs such as Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which would tighten regulations on emissions from power plants seen as contributing to global warming, would be eliminated. Popular EPA grants for state and local drinking and wastewater projects would be preserved, however, even as research into climate change would be eliminated.

Before the two sides go to war over Trump's 2018 plan, they need to deal with 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 in the new proposal, 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.

Critics seized on difficult-to-defend cuts to programs such as Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to elderly shut-ins.

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. The plan It would also shut down some money-losing long-distance Amtrak routes and kill off a popular $500 million per-year "TIGER Grant" program for highway projects created by Obama.

Colorado politicians, organizations have mixed reactions

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told Denver7 Thursday he has asked state agencies to determine how they could be affected under the proposed budget, but reinforced the fact that it still has a long way to go before it’s finalized.

“The president is kind of laying a marker. This is what he thinks is important and he’s going to push in these directions, but then there’s going to be a whole bunch of negotiation,” Hickenlooper said. “This is the beginning of what will be a fairly-long discussion.

An EPA Region 8 spokesperson told Denver7 it would not comment on the budget until it was finalized, though it is facing the largest cuts of any government department.

As such, Colorado Dems generally blasted the budget proposal, while Republicans in the state said they were generally pleased with the requests.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said the budget request is “short-sighted” and would be “calamitous” for the U.S.

“I am especially concerned that the president plans to gut the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health,” DeGette said.

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., pointed to the multi-trillion-dollar national debt as reasons for the extensive cuts to programs not under the defense umbrella.

“With our national debt now over $20 trillion, the federal government cannot continue to spend money it doesn’t have,” he said in a statement. “It is now more important than ever that we focus federal resources on keeping our country safe through defense and diplomacy, invest in programs that deliver results for Americans on Main Street and grow the economy, and ensure our social safety nets are put on a sustainable course for those who truly need them.”

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., said he would fight many of the cuts, which he says would have “devastating consequences for our country and for Colorado.”

“This is a carelessly crafted wrecking ball,” said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. "The President's budget says less diplomacy, more bombs. He's saying less resources for underserved students, and more for private schools. He’s saying less funding for our world-renowned scientists, and more dollars for walls. He's saying less environmental protections, and more pollution in our air and water."

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., similarly disagreed with Trump’s proposed budget.

“This budget is not a serious proposal to help our country compete in the 21st century economy.” Bennet said in a statement. “Even members of the President’s own party have called this dead on arrival. Cutting investments in affordable housing, infrastructure, research, and environmental protection isn’t putting ‘America First.’ Instead, this blueprint offers ideologically-driven cuts masquerading as deficit reduction. The President should abandon this plan and start working with Congress on responsible solutions to reduce our deficit while maintaining important investments in our country.”

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which faces an elimination of its federal funding under the proposal, also slammed it.

“The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions for Americans in rural and urban communities alike,” its president and CEO, Patricia Harrison, said in a statement.

For more on the winners and losers in the early budget proposal from the AP, click here.


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