Tomorrow, the first Trump Budget proposal will be sent to Congress. The plan will likely contain controversial cuts in spending, in addition to targeted spending increases. Democratic lawmakers are, predictably, livid.
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump made repeated promises to reduce the deficit, which ballooned under previous administrations. This budget is intended to be the embodiment of Trump’s message. Beyond this, it will provide more shock value than most past presidential administrations would have preferred.
It is for this reason that the plan will meet criticism from both sides of the aisle. Despite the anticipated opposition, the proposal is sure to be a boon for some conservatives, who spent years chafing under the spending and regulatory policies of the Obama administration. Other conservatives are wary of the new administration’s priorities. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that the plan will be, “dead on arrival.”
This plan only deals with discretionary spending, and its precise content will remain unknown until it is made public. What is already known, however, is what Trump and other administration officials have suggested over the past two months.
Last month, the administration released a preliminary budget proposal detailing its agenda. Trump is apparently preparing to propose cuts to several government agencies. This move could represent one of the largest suggested reductions in the federal labor force in U.S. history.
Trump’s preliminary proposal includes:
- A $54 billion increase in defense spending.
- Funding for a wall across the southern U.S. border with Mexico (so far Mexico has refused to pay for the wall, which will cost approximately $14 billion).
- Increases in funding to the Departments of Homeland Security and Veteran’s Affairs.
- A significant reduction (approximately 37%) in State Department, United Nations, and other foreign aid spending.
- $6 billion in education cuts. The Department of Education could lose approximately 25% of its employees.
- Elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant Program.
- Approximately $2 billion in cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA could also lose approximately 25% of its employees.
- Just over $1 billion in cuts to the U.S Coast Guard.
- $700 million in cuts to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (this would account for 33% of its $2.1 billion budget).
- The virtual elimination (a 97% cut in funding) of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Several themes seem to have played out over the last two months. Most importantly, Trump has repeatedly made it clear that he intends to pursue an “America First” approach to policy. This approach is most pronounced in the foreign policy arena.
The administration intends to withdraw helping hands from nations around the world and to simultaneously bolster defense spending. In fact, this withdrawal, in addition to a substantial reduction in federal employees and funding to other government agencies, would help to pay for the extra military muscle.
This suggested approach threatens to permanently damage U.S. diplomatic credibility. Committed U.N. funding is mandatory, and failure to meet it could result in an embarrassing suspension of U.S. general assembly voting status. This reduction in spending will also leave humanitarian missions high and dry, further damaging America’s reputation abroad.
It could also be argued that, if the plan were to be implemented, the Trump administration would do its own part to add to the deficit. It intends to enact an enormous infrastructure expansion program (approximately $1 trillion), while at the same time cutting taxes and making little to no effort at entitlements reform. The administration’s intentions with respect to non-discretionary spending will not be made public until May, but Trump has promised not to cut entitlements.
If the proposal turns out to be as extreme as it could be, it may be too extreme for many Republicans. For example, Republican lawmakers have voiced opposition to some of the elements of the proposal, including cuts in the U.S. Coast Guard budget and changes to the CDBG program. In the eventuality of sufficient Republican dissatisfaction, it is relatively likely that Trump’s plan will become the centerpiece of a long, drawn out debate.
Even more enticing is the prospect of a government shutdown next fall, if the negotiations fail to yield a tangible result. This would be a breakdown in bipartisanship like that which occurred during Obama’s first term in office. Congressional Democrats could use this kind of a roadblock to draw attention away from the campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act. These same Democrats may also threaten government shutdown over funding for the border wall.