President Trump will roll out his first budget blueprint Thursday morning that would increase defense spending by 10 percent, funding for Homeland Security programs by 6 percent and dramatically slash funding to both the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The proposal, which will go public at 7:00 a.m. ET, will cover both the current fiscal year as well as fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1. It does not have the force of law, and is only used as a guideline for congressional appropriators who have the power of the purse.
It’s been dubbed the “skinny budget” because it only contains discretionary spending numbers and does not include proposals for mandatory spending, which covers entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Just one-third of the nation’s $4 trillion budget is discretionary spending, while two-thirds is mandatory spending. President Trump has promised not to alter mandatory spending. While the blueprint does not balance, the White House proposal will offset the $54 billion increase in defense spending with equal cuts elsewhere. Defense spending alone is approximately half of all discretionary spending.
The budget will include only highlights, or the total funding for each federal government agency, and there will not be a spreadsheet that contains line-by-line cuts or increases.
“While we say we plus-up the defense top-line number by $54 billion, you will, in other parts of the budget, find a corresponding $54 billion worth of reductions,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters on Wednesday. “The president accomplishes his priorities without adding to the deficit.”
Mr. Trump’s “America First” budget aims to “shrink the role of government” and eliminate waste and duplicative programs, said Mulvaney, who said the proposal’s spending boosts and cuts are based on the president’s speeches, articles written about his policies and after speaking to the president directly. Mulvaney described it as a “hard power budget” and “not a soft power budget.”
“We turned those policies into numbers,” Mulvaney said. “There will be more money on defense...there’s more money for enforcing security at the border, there’s more money for enforcing laws on the books, just generally, [and] there’s more money for things like private and public school choice.”
The budget will propose that Congress consider “fairly dramatic reductions” in funding for the State Department, said Mulvaney, who said the cut to the department will be about 28 percent. He suggested a good chunk of that cut would apply to U.S. foreign aid programs.
In addition to a 10 percent spending boost for the Defense Department, Mulvaney said that DHS would receive about 6 percent funding boost under the proposal.
While Mulvaney wouldn’t explicitly confirm reports that EPA would face a 25 percent spending cut under the proposal, he said that the White House worked closely with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on that part of the budget.
Because Congress delayed passing a 2017 spending package twice last year, Mr. Trump is proposing a budget for the current fiscal year. Mulvaney said for 2017, the blueprint will propose a $30 billion increase for defense and the border. The blueprint will also include a supplemental request of $1.5 billion to fund the initial developments for Mr. Trump’s plan for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. For the 2018 part of the blueprint, Mr. Trump will request $2.6 billion for the wall. The wall is estimated to cost over $21 billion.
Shooting down reports that said the administration is funding the wall through cuts to the Coast Guard, Mulvaney said, “We did not say, ‘Okay, we need $1.5 billion for the wall, let’s go over and reduce this program over in Education and move that $1.5 billion over to the wall. We dealt with it more holistically.”
As for NASA, Mulvaney said the budget will propose a “very small” number, which will be about a 1 percent cut. The blueprint will also propose ending funding for and federal involvement with the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, which helps to fund PBS and NPR stations.
Mulvaney said the budget released Thursday will include spending cuts for infrastructure programs at the Transportation Department.
“People might say, ‘Well, goodness gracious, that doesn’t line up with where the president said about a commitment to infrastructure.’ That was done intentionally,” Mulvaney said. “Why? Because we believe those programs to be less efficient than the infrastructure package that we’re working on for later on this year.”
The White House plans to roll out a more comprehensive budget in May, Mulvaney reiterated, which would include spending projections for the wall and other priorities for a 10-year window.
“What will you will not see here: you will not see revenue projections. You will not see larger policy statements. More importantly, you will not see anything having to do with mandatory spending,” he said.
He added that the fuller budget will assume the passage of the GOP proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), but the budget released Thursday will not include such a projection.
Republicans might applaud the proposal in theory, but they likely won’t be able to get it through Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said late last month, for example, that deep cuts to the State Department would not pass the upper chamber.
The cuts, meanwhile, will not fly with Democrats.
“It is rumored that one of those poison pill riders might be a supplemental added to the [upcoming spending bill] that would call for paying for President Trump’s wall. That will not stand,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “The president wants a wall but hasn’t answered so many questions about it. What about eminent domain and the procedures to acquire land from private landowners? What’s the design of the wall? Where’s it going to be located? How’s it going to be paid for and how much does it cost?”
“It is truly a poison pill and we would urge our colleagues not to allow the president to include this in a must-pass bill that avoids shutdown of the government,” Schumer warned.
Congress must pass a new spending package by April 28 or risk a government shutdown.
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