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.”
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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.
But the proposal’s fate is likely to be the same as most presidential budgets: It won’t pass.
Historically, lawmakers don’t pass presidential budgets introduced to much fanfare — like President Donald Trump’s was Thursday — even if the president is of the same party that controls Congress.
“It’s kind of a tradition to declare the new president’s budget ‘dead on arrival,’ ” said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group. “Congress is going to do what it is going to do.”
Trump unveiled a $1.15 trillion spending plan that was chock full of the same proposals that have been offered up before by his Republican predecessors as they all aimed to make good on campaign pledges to shrink the size of the federal government, eliminate redundant programs and cut waste.
Some of those familiar proposals that made it into Trump’s plan: eliminating money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, reducing funding for the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, and slashing federal dollars to Amtrak.
But lawmakers just can’t seem to support those sorts of cuts when they consider what they would mean to their constituents.
“Cutting programs means cutting programs in their community,” said Leon Panetta, who served as President Bill Clinton’s budget director and chairman of House Budget Committee. “They can’t sustain it politically.”
Immediately after Trump’s budget was released, Democrats and Republicans alike criticized portions that would affect their constituents or their interests.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, opposed a proposal to eliminate money for an initiative working to restore the Great Lakes. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., worried about a proposed premium increase for flood insurance. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., whose district is home to a major medical research institution, vowed to fight a proposed $5.8 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health.
“Of course, Congress controls the power of the purse,” Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, acknowledged Thursday. “And this will be the first step in that process.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., agreed, saying, “No matter who the president is or whose party controls the White House, this budget is not considered a viable and realistic plan for spending. As the saying goes: The president proposes and the Congress disposes. This means that it is the members of Congress who pass appropriation bills, not the president.”
Trump’s spending blueprint released Thursday is light on specifics, but makes clear that his campaign pledge to confront illegal immigration is a top priority. Even as he plans to cut the Justice Department’s budget by more than $1 billion, Trump is asking for hundreds of millions of dollars to hire 60 federal prosecutors and 40 deputy U.S. Marshals to focus on border cases.
He also wants to boost immigration courts by $80 million to pay for 75 additional teams of judges. That would speed up removal proceedings for people in the United States illegally and address a backlog of more than 540,000 pending cases. The plan foreshadows a greater emphasis on prosecuting people who cross the border illegally, those who come back after being deported, and anyone tied to human and drug smuggling.
Trump’s proposal also calls for adding $1.5 billion to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s budget to find, detain and deport immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, along with more than $300 million to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents and 1,000 immigration agents.
Spending increases sought for the Army and Marine Corps would benefit military vehicle builders General Dynamics and BAE Systems Plc, as well as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co., makers of air defense and anti-armor systems such as Thaad, Patriot and the Javelin.
The budget outline also hints at an increase in Lockheed’s Fort Worth-based F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which at an estimated $379 billion is the most expensive in the Pentagon's history. Trump has begun championing the F-35 after initially criticizing its price tag and then taking credit for progress in Pentagon negotiations that were already under way to reduce its cost.
“Key investments in maintenance capacity, training systems and additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters would enable the Air Force, which is now the smallest it has been in history, to counter the growing number of complex threats,” the White House said in its summary.
Lockheed builds the F-35 in west Fort Worth, where it employs about 14,000 including 8,800 working who work on the stealth fighter program. In February, Lockheed and the Pentagon reached agreement on an $8.2 billion contract for the next 90 F-35 jets that reduces costs by $728 million and will lead to 1,800 more jobs in Fort Worth.
While most of the additional defense funds sought by Trump would go toward the regular Defense Department budget, $5.1 billion would be added to the account dedicated to war-fighting, including the effort to defeat Islamic State.
Reaction from the Texas congressional delegation was largely along party lines.
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, said he’s confident Congress will work with Trump to “improve government efficiency while ensuring ample funding levels to meet the needs of our military and American communities.”
Burgess said he believes the proposed budget “prioritizes economic prosperity without adding to our already crippling national debt. President Trump’s ‘skinny’ budget signals a return to a smaller government that finds itself less involved in regulating American lives.”
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, made it clear he supports the big boost in defense spending. “The single most important duty for Congress is to provide for our national defense,” Williams said in a statement Thursday, reiterating testimony he gave last week before the House Appropriation Subcommittee on Defense.
Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, blasted the budget because he believes it would hurt those who need help the most. “Our nation’s budget is a statement of our values & #TrumpCuts hurts our seniors, students, teachers & neediest Americans,” Veasey tweeted Thursday.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, agreed, calling Trump’s proposal “devastating and troubling to working class Americans.”
Staff writer John Gravois contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram Washington Bureau, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and the Star-Telegram archives.