Trump’s $1.1 Trillion Budget Makes Dramatic Cuts to Federal Government
by Erik Ortiz and Ali Vitali
The White House is putting its "America First" agenda front and center, unveiling a budget Thursday that pumps $54 billion more into the Pentagon and protecting the nation’s borders, while sharply slashing domestic and discretionary spending.
The $1.1 trillion budget proposal sent to Congress represents a significant rollback of the federal workforce and imposes deep and dramatic cuts in order to offset the additional defense spending. The axe falls heavily on the Environmental Protection Agency, the Agriculture Department and the State Department.
While military spending gets a boost, one of Trump’s other campaign promises is seeing a tangible first step toward realization: The budget reserves $1.5 billion for building a wall on the southern border with Mexico, with $2.6 billion more allocated for the project in the following fiscal year.
"A budget that puts America first must make the safety of our people its number one priority — because without safety, there can be no prosperity," Trump said in a message for his budget, titled "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again."
Other programs, from medical research to the arts to those benefiting the poor, would also lose a significant chunk — if not all — of their federal funding. While such a move is in line with what conservative lawmakers have been pressing for as a way to rein in the deficit and overhaul spending, other proposals in the document are certain to find push back, particularly from Democrats.
"Once again the Trump administration is showing its true colors: talk like a populist but govern like a special interests zealot," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, said in a statement, adding, "The very programs that most help the middle class are those that get clobbered the hardest: investments in infrastructure, education, scientific research that leads to cures for diseases all take big hits."
Republican leaders, too, have balked at the some of the outlines in the budget, including cuts to the State Department and foreign aid. Arizona Sen. John McCain said Thursday that the hike in defense funding is "not sufficient" enough.
"It is clear that this budget proposed today cannot pass the Senate," he said in a statement.
Trump’s proposed budget would not take effect until the new fiscal year in October, but Democrats this week have already threatened to stage a government shutdown if a border wall and other far-right policy proposals are included in the document.
House Speaker Paul Ryan stood firmly in Trump’s corner Thursday, and lauded the preliminary budget after the past eight years under a Democratic president.
"We are determined to work with the administration to shrink the size of government, grow our economy, secure our borders, and ensure our troops have the tools necessary to complete their missions," Ryan said in a statement.
Trump’s budget does not account for taxes and entitlement programs, which will be addressed in a broader 2018 fiscal year budget due in the spring. Here are the highlights:
—Twelve of the government’s 15 Cabinet agencies would be defunded to some extent, with the biggest losers the departments of Agriculture, Labor, State and the Cabinet-level EPA. The EPA’s funding would be down 31 percent, or $2.6 billion; Agriculture would be down nearly 21 percent, or $4.7 billion; and the State Department would be down 28 percent, or $10 billion.
—The departments seeing the biggest funding gains would be the Pentagon, up 10 percent with $52 billion allocated for military spending and $2 billion for national defense programs outside the Defense Department; Homeland Security, up 6.8 percent or $2.8 billion, including for the building of the border wall with Mexico; and Veterans Affairs, up 5.9 percent, or $4.4 billion.
—The Health and Human Services Department faces the biggest cut in dollars — 16.2 percent, or $12.6 billion — with funding eliminated for the Fogarty International Center, whose mission is to support global health. But the budget does address the nation’s growing opioid addiction epidemic with a proposed $500 million increase to the health department as well as more to the Justice Department.
—Aside from funding for the border wall, Homeland Security would get a $314 million hiring spree for "500 new Border Patrol Agents and 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement law enforcement personnel in 2018, plus associated support staff." Money would also go toward hiring 75 immigration judges and 20 attorneys who can help procure the land in the Southwest for the border wall, as well as for short-term detention space.
—Federal funding would be eliminated for several programs and services, with proposed savings of $2.7 billion. Those include the National Endowment for the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, legal aid for the poor and low-income heating assistance.