WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump delivered a 2020 budget to the Democratic-controlled House on Monday that cuts spending nearly across the board yet still isn’t projected to balance for 15 years, even with ambitious economic growth forecasts.
The $4.7 trillion budget proposal is dead on arrival in Congress, but it will stand as a statement of the President’s priorities — for cutting and spending alike — and has already quickly become a lightning rod for Democratic criticism.
Fresh off Trump’s border fight with Congress, his budget blueprint calls for Congress to spend $8.6 billion more on a US-Mexico wall, proposes deep non-defense spending cuts and calls for a continued surge in defense spending. The President also wants Congress to replenish a military construction fund he plans to raid to build the border wall after he declared a national emergency.
With the 2020 campaign on the horizon, the blueprint gives Trump a chance to tout his attempt to fund conservative priorities and deliver deep cuts to domestic spending programs that would be popular with his political base.
Alongside a 5% boost to defense spending, the plan calls for $2.7 trillion in cuts to federal spending by slashing the budgets for a host of federal departments and agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Education and State Department, among others.
Even as the proposal gives Trump a chance to stake out his political priorities, it is also opening him up to criticism for faltering on campaign promises.
Trump made a 2016 campaign promise to eliminate the national debt while in office, but the budget proposal projects the national debt will balloon to $31 trillion in 10 years.
And despite Trump’s promise not to touch Social Security or Medicare, his latest budget proposal would reduce Medicare spending by $845 billion over 10 years.
Broad strokes, few details
The initial rollout lacks details on individual programs, which are anticipated to be delivered later this month. But it sets the stage for the President’s priorities heading into his re-election campaign, including immigration and national security.
In its proposal, the White House is calling for a cut to the overall level of non-defense spending by 5% next year below current federal spending caps, a nearly $30 billion reduction. It would also increase military spending by 5% to $750 billion, up from $716 billion.
The Trump administration is using a war contingency fund as a maneuver to get around the defense budget limit, which lawmakers have already derided as a budget gimmick.
Though the plan comes with a built-in deficit of more than $22 trillion, Trump administration officials described it as a “return to fiscal sanity” that won’t hinder economic growth.
The President’s proposal would expand the federal budget deficit to $1.1 trillion in the next fiscal year, while also calling for balancing the budget by 2034 by assuming the economy will be able to grow faster than most economists anticipate.
The latest budget aims to balance the budget in 15 years, rather than the traditional 10. The administration put the blame on Congress for ignoring proposed cuts last year, which has resulted in delaying when balance can be achieved.
In its updated forecast, the administration is projecting that the nation’s debt will balloon to more than $31 trillion in the next decade by 2029. It currently stands at more than $22 trillion.
“President Trump’s budget takes steps in the right direction, but there is still much work to do,” said Steve Womack, a Republican from Arkansas who sits on the House Budget Committee.
The White House forecast in its budget that the economy will grow at an average of 3% each year over the next decade, including 3.2% in 2019. It also anticipates the economy to gradually slow to 3.1% in 2020, 3% in 2021, and 2.8% in 2026.
While such forecasts are difficult to predict, the White House figure is at odds with projections made by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF anticipates US growth to decline to 2.5% this year and soften further to 1.8% in 2020 as the fiscal stimulus of the Republican-backed tax cuts fade.
‘No chance’ say Democrats
House Democrats have already panned the proposal, saying it would leave the country less safe and secure.
“President Trump’s budget once again lays out an irresponsible and cynical vision for our country, without any regard for its human cost,” Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said in a statement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said on Sunday they would block efforts by Trump to get $8.6 billion to build his wall.
“President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall, which he promised would be paid for by Mexico,” they said in a joint statement. “We hope he learned his lesson.”
On Monday, Pelosi released a second statement deriding the budget as written “for the special interests and the wealthiest 1%.”
“After adding $2 trillion to the deficit with the GOP tax scam for the rich, President Trump wants to ransack as much as $2 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid,” she said. “While demanding billions more for his wasteful, ineffective wall, President Trump will steal from students and hungry families, from rural communities and American farmers, from clean air and clean water, and from vital, job-creating investments nationwide.”
As in previous years, Trump’s blueprint also calls for $200 billion for infrastructure spending, with the Trump administration open to working with Congress to construct a package that could attract bipartisan support.
Trump’s budget proposal includes funds for hiring across federal agencies, including US Customs and Border Protection and the Justice Department Executive Office for Immigration Review, both of which have already had trouble filling vacancies. That includes $314 million to hire an additional 1,000 ICE law enforcement officers.
The administration is also asking Congress for $40 billion to fund the State Department’s work on international diplomacy and aid in fiscal 2020, a slight increase from last year’s request but nowhere close to addressing deep cuts made in 2017.
The Trump administration’s emphasis on funding the Pentagon over diplomacy has alarmed retired military leaders, who said Sunday that squeezing the State Department budget undermines US security and leadership.
“The military alone cannot keep our nation safe,” more than a dozen former combatant commanders, including retired generals David Petraeus and Anthony Zinni and retired admiral James Stavridis, said in a statement urging Congress to protect funding for the State Department.