President Donald Trump‘s budget request on Monday will pitch billions of dollars in cuts to non-defense spending despite a budget deal he already negotiated with Congress, in addition to seeking major savings by targeting the federal safety net, a senior administration official told POLITICO on Sunday.
Trump also will ask Congress for a slight spending increase for the Pentagon as he releases his $4.8 trillion budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year.
Under Trump’s plan, the administration predicts the federal deficit would shrink to $966 billion next fiscal year and to $261 billion by 2030. That gap between government spending and revenue is forecast to exceed $1 trillion this year.
As with his previous budget proposals, Trump is once again seeking deep and unrealistic cuts to most federal agency budgets, according to the budget summary tables. The cuts are unlikely to be embraced by Congress.
For example, the administration is seeking an 8 percent cut to USDA’s budget over current funding levels. Trump’s plan would cut the Commerce Department by 37 percent, the Education Department by 8 percent, the Energy Department by 8 percent, the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 15 percent, and the Department of Health and Human Services by 9 percent.
The administration is also seeking a 13 percent cut to the Interior Department, a 2 percent cut to the Justice Department, an 11 percent cut to the Labor Department, a nearly 21 percent cut to the State Department and a 13 percent cut to the Department of Transportation. The EPA’s budget would see a nearly 27 percent chop, the Army Corps of Engineers would see a 22 percent reduction and the Small Business Administration would see an 11 percent decrease.
The president aims to reduce the deficit by $4.4 trillion over a decade, by way of about $2 trillion in spending restraint through non-defense programs and about $2 trillion from military accounts, plus hundreds of billions of dollars in avoided interest payments. Trump projects an end to annual deficits in 15 years, rather than a more aggressive 10-year goal.
About half of the savings would stem from the Trump administration’s push to overhaul mandatory spending, including changes that would curb food stamp benefits, implement Medicaid work requirements and tackle improper health payments, among other reforms.
An administration official stressed that the president isn’t proposing to cut Medicare or Medicaid in order to achieve savings, and that mandatory spending for both health programs increases each year in Trump’s budget plan.
The two-year budget deal Congress and the Trump administration forged last summer cemented $738 billion in fiscal 2020 funding for the military and $632 billion for non-defense departments. Federal funding limits will be even higher — but still tight — for the fiscal year that begins in October, allowing an extra $2.5 billion for the military and another $2.5 billion bump for non-defense programs, under the agreement.
Trump is instead pushing for cuts to the non-defense spending level that he negotiated with Congress, bringing that level down to $590 billion, while maintaining military funding at $740.5 billion.
A senior administration official, speaking on background, said Congress should spend at lower levels than the negotiated funding caps, particularly when it comes to non-defense spending.
Democrats will never agree to carve up domestic programs for savings, and it will be up to Congress to decide on final fiscal 2021 spending levels.
The president’s budget plan once again assumes more robust economic growth than what most economists predict, at 3 percent over the next decade, driven by the implementation of his policies.
POLITICO first reported last month that Trump will request level funding for Ukraine aid in his upcoming budget, which is a notable break from his previous budget blueprints, when he proposed cutting tens of millions of dollars in foreign military assistance through the State Department.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would see a 9 percent reduction to its budget, although billions of dollars to fight infectious diseases would be preserved amid the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
Trump’s request would also nix funding for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in Nevada, after he tweeted a promise last week to find a solution to long-term nuclear waste storage without moving forward with the permanent repository.
Among agencies getting an increased request, the Department of Veterans Affairs would see a 13 percent increase next fiscal year and NASA would see a 12 percent increase to fulfill Trump’s goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by 2024. The Department of Homeland Security would see a 3 percent boost under Trump's proposal, and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s budget would get a 19 percent boost.
Trump’s plan would devote $1 trillion to boosting infrastructure over 10 years, offset by savings in mandatory spending. It would also relocate the Secret Service from DHS to the Treasury Department, in a move that would require congressional approval.
The budget request will ask Congress for an extra $2 billion for border wall construction, in addition to billions in funding hikes for immigration enforcement.
Trump sought a much heftier $8.6 billion in border funding last year, and the $2 billion this year reflects the administration’s success in circumventing Congress to free up billions of dollars for barrier construction. The request for an additional $2 billion comes on top of nearly $1.4 billion that congressional leaders agreed to provide this fiscal year, and after Trump diverted $6.7 billion from military construction and other accounts to build a wall.
The administration is reportedly planning to reprogram another $7.2 billion, after legal challenges and congressional attempts to stop the administration from reshuffling federal cash fell short.
Trump will also seek an extra $1.4 billion over current funding levels for Customs and Border Protection, bringing the agency’s total to $15.6 billion, according to officials familiar with the request. He will also ask for a $1.9 billion boost for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, bringing the agency’s total to $9.9 billion.
“This request is based on what’s required to gain operational control of the border,” a senior administration official told POLITICO. “Since taking office, President Trump has prioritized funding for a border wall. With funding available, the administration will build up to approximately 1,000 miles of border wall along the southwest border.“
While the president is looking for significantly less money than last year for the border wall, any increase is still bound to spark a fight with Democrats, as will the extra cash for CBP and ICE.
Republicans in both the House and Senate have already been forced to vote twice during the past year to overturn Trump’s previous emergency order to shift billions of dollars in military construction funds toward the border wall. While the president promptly vetoed those rebukes, the votes caused discomfort for GOP lawmakers torn between supporting Trump and delaying projects that benefit military families in their home states.
The $2 billion Trump is seeking for a border wall in fiscal 2021 is also billions of dollars less than the $5.7 billion demand that sparked the 35-day government shutdown in 2018.