Budgets

White House defends Trump budget plan against Dem attacks

The White House on Tuesday vigorously defended President Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget proposal that would cut entitlements and other domestic programs while boosting military and border security spending, saying the plan represents Trump’s campaign promises “put on paper.”

“There’s not a single thing [cut] from Social Security or Medicare,” White House budget Director Mick Mulvaney stressed. “Why? Because that’s what he promised.”

But a range of other programs, from Medicaid to food stamps, would be cut under the fiscal 2018 budget blueprint. In the face of swift and stiff Democratic opposition, Mulvaney told reporters that the Trump administration is taking a new approach to government spending. 

"We look at spending differently. We are not going to measure compassion by the number of programs or people on them," he said. 

The proposed budget – titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness” -- would increase military spending by 10 percent. 

Even before the document's release, Democrats were organizing against it, with leaders accusing the administration of trying to balance the budget on the backs of low-income Americans.

“Eliminating domestic programs is unconscionable,” said New York Rep. Joe Crowley, who as leader of the House Democratic Caucus also vowed to make Trump’s budget a centerpiece in efforts to retake the chamber in 2018.

The budget proposal was sent to Congress on Tuesday, while Trump was on his first presidential overseas trip. The next fiscal year begins in October.

“We can finally turn the page on the Obama era of bloated budgets that never balance,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in support of the budget. “President Trump has proven his commitment to fiscal responsibility with a budget that … prioritizes American taxpayers over bureaucrats in Washington.”

Nevertheless, members of both parties have said since March, when a skeleton version of the budget was released, to expect major changes. Republicans facing tough reelection bids and would have to explain to voters any cuts to programs like food stamps. 

Trump budget officials have presented the latest plan as a “taxpayer-first” document that attempts to reduce persistently large deficits and a swelling national debt now approaching $20 trillion.

The blueprint projects this year's deficit will increase to $603 billion, from the actual deficit of $585 billion last year. But the document says if Trump's initiatives are adopted the deficit would start declining and actually reach a small surplus of $16 billion in 2027.

However, that goal depends on growth projections that many private economists view as overly optimistic. The government hasn't run a surplus since the late 1990s when a budget deal between Democrat Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans combined with the longest U.S. economic recovery in history produced four years of black ink from 1998 to 2001.

Trump's plan cuts almost $3.6 trillion from an array of benefit programs, domestic agencies and war spending over the coming decade -- an almost 8 percent cut -- including repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama's health law, cutting Medicaid, eliminating student loan subsidies, sharply slashing food stamps, and cutting $95 billion in highway formula funding for the states.

“We are not kicking anybody off any program who needs it,” said Mulvaney, who also argued the proposal doesn’t cut Medicaid, just grows it more slowly over 10 years, compared to the former administration’s plan.

Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor and many disabled Americans, would be cut by more than $600 billion over that period by capping payments to states and giving governors more flexibility to manage their rosters of Medicaid recipients.

Those cuts go on top of the repeal of ObamaCare's expansion of the program to 14 million people and amount to, by decade's end, an almost 25 percent cut from present projections.

Likewise, a 10-year, $191 billion reduction in food stamps -- almost 30 percent -- exceeds prior proposals by Capitol Hill Republicans.

The budget does feature one major new domestic initiative -- offering paid parental leave at a projected cost of $25 billion over the next decade. The new program has been championed by Trump's daughter, Ivanka.

Other cuts in Trump's budget include reductions in pension benefits for federal workers, in part by requiring employees to make higher contributions. In agriculture, the proposed budget would limit subsidies to farmers, including for purchasing crop insurance, a move already attacked by farm state lawmakers.

On taxes, Trump promises an overhaul that would cut rates but rely on erasing tax breaks and economic growth to avoid adding to the deficit. It would create three tax brackets -- 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent -- instead of the current seven, but specific details were left to further negotiations with Congress.

The new budget plan builds on Trump's March proposals, adding details to his goal of boosting defense spending by $54 billion, a 10 percent increase, for this year, with that boost financed by an equal cut to nondefense programs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.