President to address Congress
President calls for $54B increase in military spending
Donald Trump is expected to call for a $54 billion hike in military spending.
WASHINGTON— President Trump vowed to use his first joint address to Congress on Tuesday to call for a dramatic $54 billion increase in military spending, coupled with an equally large cut to domestic programs that could gut some core functions of the federal government, setting up his most concrete blueprint yet for reordering the nation’s priorities.
Though Trump’s proposal will likely be altered significantly in the coming debate between the Trump administration and lawmakers in both parties, it represents the kind of bold initiative that Trump relishes as he prepares for another milestone early in his term. The speech, which takes the place of a State of the Union address in a president’s first year, will be Trump’s most formal since his inaugural address, a dark and relatively short speech that framed his presidency as emerging from a nation marked by “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones.”
Though Trump has flouted formal traditions in other venues, speaking extemporaneously to obsess on the size of his electoral victory or inaugural crowds or to spar with the press, the batch of policies he previewed Monday suggests that he will at least come equipped Tuesday with a script that uses the address as other presidents have: to advocate for his agenda. For Trump, that includes a replacement for Obamacare, a sharp cut in federal regulations and an increase in federal spending on military and lawenforcement.
Yet Trump continued to send mixed messages on spending.
He again called the nearly two decades of war in the Middle East a failure, as he has repeatedly.
“We have to start winning wars again,” he said, explaining his call for an increase in military spending that would amount to nearly 10 percent. It is geared to allow the armed services to rebound after several years of cuts known as sequestration forced by a failed negotiation between the Obama administration and the GOP-controlled Congress.
Trump’s biggest challenge will be finding money to cut elsewhere in the budget, which his administration has yet to detail. He promised in his campaig nto protect Social Security and Medicare, and aides said the current spending proposal would not affect those programs.
His advisers have said they would target foreign aid, a move opposed Monday by 121 retired admirals and generals and one that could put him at risk of undercutting his strong ties with Israel, an ally that is the top recipient of such funding. Yet even if Trump finds a way to cut foreign commitments, the entire category still represents only about 1 percent of the entire budget.
Thatwould likely mean a cut of at least 10 percent to other portions of the budget — including environmental protection, diplomacy, education and job training — which have already absorbed sequestration cuts of their own since they took effect in 2013.
Cutting some programs, such as heating assistance, public housing and grants to communities that help the poor, could have a disproportionate impact on the group of Americans whom Trump has labeled the “forgotten man and the forgotten woman” hit hardest by the loss of manufacturing jobs.
At the same time, Trump repeated his promise on Monday to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure but has yet to explain how he would do so without increasing the size of the deficit. Spokesman Sean Spicer said the program would be negotiated separately with Congress as part of a longerterm deal.
Trump will also make a separate request to Congress to pay for his promised wall on the Mexican border, said Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney. The cost is estimated at $12 billion to $38 billion if the administration were to build along the entire 2,000-mile border.
Mulvaney did not rule out making cuts to Social Security and Medicare, saying the discussion would come as part of the debate over changing the tax code. Yet Trump also promised again Monday to initiate a major tax cut, further complicating efforts to trim the deficit.
Congress, which has had a hard time passing budgets that cut popular programs even under GO Pleadership, may reject some or all of Trump’s plans. Because the sequester was written into law, Republican Senate leaders would need Democratic support to reach the 60 votes necessary to reorder spending.
Still, Trump’s roll-out seems geared more toward setting up a debate than articulating a full-blown agenda. He and his aides have stressed repeatedly that he is “keeping his promises.”
Still, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has begun using the Twitter hashtag #brokenpromises to criticize Trump. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that “Trump fully intends to break his promises toworking families by taking a meat ax to programs that benefit the middle class.”
The president’s budget plan means “helping the wealthy and special interests while putting further burdens on the middle class and those struggling to get there,” Schumer said.
President Donald Trump will present his budget Tuesday night to Congress with a large cut to domestic programs.