Trump budget touches off new battle over spending cuts

President Trump on Monday released his 2021 fiscal year budget, which included significant cuts to entitlement programs and discretionary spending, touching off a simmering battle over spending cuts.

The Trump administration has mostly avoided proposing significant spending cuts in its first three years, with the federal deficit reaching $984 billion in 2019 according to the Congressional Budget Office. But Trump's 2021 budget – which is largely a symbolic document meant to show Congress where his priorities are – is upsetting Democrats who are crying foul over cuts to entitlements. The administration claims Trump's spending  plan, if implemented, would lead to a balanced budget by 2035.

"With his latest budget proposal, it's hard to imagine that President Trump could do any more to double-cross the very American workers and middle-class families he promised to help just last week in his State of the Union Address," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "By proposing severe cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, President Trump's latest budget is simply a continuation of his war to rip away health care for millions of Americans, including people with pre-existing conditions."

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The budget’s most significant policy prescriptions – an immediate 5 percent cut to non-defense agency budgets passed by Congress and $700 billion in cuts to Medicaid over a decade – are part of a plan to cut $4.4 trillion in government spending over 10 years.

Trump has proposed modest adjustments to eligibility for Social Security disability benefits and $465 billion in cuts to Medicare providers such as hospitals, but the real cost drivers of Medicare and Social Security are the ongoing retirement surge of the baby-boom generation and healthcare costs that continue to outpace inflation. Trump's budget would not touch individuals' benefits for Medicare.

These proposed cuts, which irked Democrats and touched on the "third rail" of American politics that are entitlements, pleased conservatives like Romina Boccia, the director of the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget at The Heritage Foundation.

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"Washington’s consistent denial of the consequences of overspending by the federal government is one of the greatest threats to America’s future. President Trump’s FY2021 budget takes many important steps to curtail wasteful government spending, maintain successful pro-growth policy, sustain a strong national defense, and fund key constitutional priorities," she said.

But, she added: "Nevertheless, a number of policies in the budget represent missed opportunities. The administration must stay the course and not fall prey to using the budget as a vehicle for problematic policy initiatives, including misguided infrastructure funding from Washington and a federal encroachment in education policy."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused the president of hypocrisy, saying Trump is "brazenly inflicting savage multi-billion-dollar cuts to Medicare and Medicaid – at the same time that he is fighting in federal court to destroy protections for people with pre-existing conditions and dismantle every other protection and benefit of the Affordable Care Act."

She continued: "Americans’ quality, affordable health care will never be safe with President Trump. The American people sent a Democratic House majority to Washington to fight for the people to lower their healthcare costs, and that is exactly what we will continue to do."

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House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., similarly attacked Trump for what he called "deep cuts to critical programs that help American families..."

"Judging by initial reports, this destructive and irrational president is giving us a destructive and irrational budget," Yarmuth said. "Furthermore, the budget reportedly includes destructive changes to Medicaid, SNAP, Social Security and other assistance programs that help Americans make ends meet – all while extending his tax cuts for millionaires and wealthy corporations. Congress will stand firm against this president’s broken promises and his disregard for the human cost of his destructive policies."

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Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, however, lauded the Trump budget, which he said focused on the right issues while taking a step toward fiscal responsibility.

"Most importantly, it sets us on a path to a balanced budget," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.