Trump’s budget seeks to boost military, slash other federal agencies

File photo of President Donald Trump addressing the US Congress. (AFP)

President Donald Trump asked the US Congress on Thursday to approve a 2018 budget that would bolster military programs and begin building a wall on the southern border with Mexico while drastically cutting many federal agencies.

Trump’s plan, showcasing his administration’s priorities, is just the first volley in what will likely be an intense battle over spending in coming months. Although both the Senate and House of Representatives are controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, Congress holds the federal purse strings and seldom approves presidents’ budget plans.

Trump’s plan took a big swipe at some federal institutions, envisaging a more than 31 percent cut, or $2.6 billion, for the Environmental Protection Agency and a 28 percent reduction, or $10.9 billion, for the State Department and other international programs.

In a message with his budget submitted to Congress, Trump said he aimed to advance “the safety and security of the American people,” adding he would do so with $54 billion in added military spending next year and putting more money into deporting illegal immigrants. 

Criticism 

Predictably, Democrats denounced the proposed steep cuts to spending on domestic programs. But some prominent Republicans were also quick to criticize the budget.

Under Trump’s plan, funding would disappear altogether for 19 independent bodies that count on federal money for public broadcasting, the arts and regional programs from Alaska to Appalachia.

Moderate Republicans expressed unease with potential cuts to popular domestic programs such as home-heating subsidies, clean-water projects and job training.

Trump’s budget outline covered just “discretionary” spending, or programs that must be renewed annually by Congress, for the 2018 fiscal year starting on Oct. 1. 

It did not address mandatory “entitlement” programs, such as Social Security retirement benefits and federally-backed healthcare for the elderly, poor and disabled, that make up most of the federal budget. For years, conservatives have been clamoring for reforms to these programs to save money.

Defense, Homeland security 

Trump also asked for $25 billion more for core Defense Department programs for the current fiscal year, as well as $5 billion more for combat operations.

Also for this fiscal year, Trump requested $3 billion more for the Department of Homeland Security, with some of that money intended for planning and construction of the border wall that he made a major part of his 2016 election campaign.

The budget outline does not incorporate Trump’s plan for sparking $1 trillion in investments to build roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure projects. The White House has said the infrastructure plan is still to come.

The planned defense increases are matched by cuts to other programs so as to not increase the $488 billion federal deficit.

Reflecting Trump’s repeated election campaign pledge to reduce illegal immigration, the Department of Homeland Security would get a 6.8 percent increase, with more money for extra staff needed to catch, detain and deport illegal immigrants.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49
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