Trump seeks $54 billion defense rise
Domestic, foreign-aid cuts in plan
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending while cutting domestic spending and foreign aid by the same amount, the White House said Monday.
Trump’s spending blueprint preceded a key address that he will give tonight to a joint session of Congress, laying out his vision for what he called a “public safety and national security budget” with a nearly 10 percent increase in defense spending.
“We never win a war. We never win. And we don’t fight to win. We don’t fight to win,” Trump said Monday in remarks to the nation’s governors. “So we either got to win or don’t
fight it at all.”
Trump noted that the U.S. has spent nearly $6 trillion on fighting wars since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but said cutting military spending was not the answer.
Instead, the increase he is proposing would be offset by cuts to unspecified domestic programs and to foreign aid, which would in turn be made up for in part by demanding that other countries pay more for security alliances that have historically been underwritten by the U.S.
“This budget expects the rest of the world to step up in some of the programs that this country has been so generous in funding in the past,” an official from the Office of Management and Budget said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s spending plans.
Foreign aid makes up about 1 percent of the budget.
“This budget speaks for itself,” the official said. “I don’t think this budget has anything to do other than putting Americans first.”
Trump also emphasized a priority on infrastructure spending.
“It’s not like we have a choice — our highways, our bridges are unsafe, our tunnels,” the president told the governors. He added, “We’re going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people.”
Trump’s final version of the budget will either leave large deficits intact or add to them if he follows through on his campaign promise for a generous tax cut. His plan faces strong opposition from Democrats, who possess the power to block it.
The immediate reaction from Republicans was mixed, with defense hawks like Sen. John McCain of Arizona saying it would do too little to help the Pentagon and fiscal conservatives and supporters of domestic agencies expressing caution.
The White House indicated that the foreign aid cuts would be particularly large.
Asked about those plans, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, “We’ll see how it works out.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R- Calif., declined to comment when approached in a Capitol hallway.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the increase in Pentagon spending would bring the total defense budget to a record $ 603 billion — and that’s before including tens of billions of dollars for overseas military operations.
The United States already
spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined, but military leaders have complained repeatedly that aircraft are aging. Congress was told recently that the average age of Air Force aircraft is 27 years, and more than half of the service’s inventory would qualify for antique vehicle license plates in Virginia.
“It is a true ‘America first’ budget,” Mulvaney said, referring to a common Trump theme. “It will show the president is keeping his promises and will do exactly what he said he was going to do. It prioritizes rebuilding our military, including restoring our nuclear capabilities, protecting the nation and securing the border, enforcing the laws currently on the books, taking care of vets and increasing school choice.”
But Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York said, “It is clear from this budget blueprint that President Trump fully intends to break his promises to working families by taking a meat ax to programs that benefit the middle class.”
He added, “A cut this steep almost certainly means cuts to agencies that protect consumers from Wall Street excess and protect clean air and water.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said deep cuts could have major effects on programs that keep the workforce competitive.
“A $54 billion cut will do far-reaching and long-lasting damage to our ability to meet the needs of the American people and win the jobs of the future,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The President is surrendering America’s leadership in innovation, education,
science and clean energy.”
Most federal agencies will see substantial reductions in their budgets, said another Office of Management and Budget administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity on a call with reporters to discuss the budget proposal.
One of the State Department’s deputy secretary positions, in charge of management and resources, is expected to be eliminated and its staff reassigned, people familiar with the plan said.
Trump and his aides also were reviewing whether to eliminate some special envoy positions — diplomatic staff assigned to key regions and issues, including climate change, anti-Semitism and Muslim communities — the people said.
Mulvaney said the plan wouldn’t add to the budget deficit, which is projected to hit about $500 billion next year, but it wouldn’t reduce it, either. The administration again made clear that the government’s largest benefit programs, Social Security and Medicare, would be exempt from cuts when Trump’s full budget submission is released in May.
McCain said Trump’s Pentagon plans would fall short by almost $40 billion and represent just a small increase over former President Barack Obama’s recent Pentagon wish list.
“With a world on fire, America cannot secure peace through strength with just 3 percent more than President Obama’s budget,” said McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
On Monday, tentative proposals for the 2018 budget year that begins Oct. 1 were being sent to federal
agencies, which will have a chance to propose changes.
Before the new budget year, there’s an April 28 deadline to finish up spending bills for the 2017 budget year, which is almost half over, and any stumble or protracted battle could risk a government shutdown.
Separate ly Monday, House Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to force Trump to release his tax returns to Congress.
Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said Monday that Congress has a responsibility to hold the executive branch “to the highest standard of transparency to ensure the public interest is placed first.”
Pascrell and other Democrats said the tax returns also would help lawmakers and the public determine whether Trump has any investments in Russia.
Trump has said he has no investments in Russia, and Democrats acknowledged they have no evidence otherwise. They said that is one reason they want to obtain access to Trump’s returns.
The Republican- controlled House on Monday approved Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s motion to postpone indefinitely Pascrell’s proposal. The vote was 229 to 185.
The Senate, meanwhile, confirmed billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary.
Wendy Harper wears patriotic colors as backers of President Donald Trump gather Monday at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta for a “Spirit of America” rally to show their support for his agenda and push back against the wave of anti-Trump protests.
Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, speaks to White House reporters Monday about President Donald Trump’s spending blueprint.