Pres­i­dent to ad­dress Congress

Pres­i­dent calls for $54B in­crease in mil­i­tary spend­ing

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Staff writ­ers W.J. Hen­ni­gan, Lisa Mas­caro, Brian Ben­nett and David Lauter con­trib­uted. By Noah Bier­man noah.bier­man@la­times.com

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.

AUDE GUERRUCCI/EPA

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will present his bud­get Tues­day night to Congress with a large cut to do­mes­tic pro­grams.

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