President Trump kicked off a new battle with Congress on Monday by releasing his fiscal 2020 budget plan seeking billions more in funding for a border wall and controversial work requirements for Americans collecting a variety of welfare benefits.
Both proposals are sure to face resistance from Democrats, especially coming off a partial shutdown triggered by a border wall dispute that only ended when Trump declared a national emergency over immigration -- a step being litigated in the courts and challenged in Congress. The requests are part of the president's $4.7 trillion budget plan.
Escalating Trump's pursuit of wall funding, the White House in the new budget requested an additional $8.6 billion to build the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border—seeking $5 billion from Congress, plus $3.6 billion from the military construction budget, for fiscal 2020.
Meanwhile, the budget aims to implement new welfare requirements -- namely, that Americans 18-65 years old work at least 20 hours a week in a job, a job training program or a community service program to secure a range of benefits and aid.
According to the administration, the work requirement would apply to federal programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and federal housing, but would come with a hardship exemption. Last year, the administration opened the door for states to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients. This part of the budget proposal would bring those work requirements to the federal level.
The proposal would represent an expansion of work requirements, though some already are in place. For the past several administrations, able-bodied recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) have mostly had to work at least 80 hours a month -- while recipients of traditional welfare known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) have also faced work requirements.
The budget, meanwhile, projects a $1.1 trillion deficit for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, but also calls for deep cuts to domestic programs.
“In the last two years, President Trump and his Administration have prioritized reining in reckless Washington spending. The Budget that we have presented to Congress and the American people…embodies fiscal responsibility and takes aim at Washington’s waste, fraud, and abuse,” Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russ Vought said in a statement.
“Our national debt nearly doubled under the previous Administration and now stands at more than $22 trillion,” he continued. “This Budget shows that we can return to fiscal sanity without halting our economic resurgence while continuing to invest in critical priorities.”
The budget also includes a national paid family leave proposal and seeks money to establish the Space Force as a new branch of the military, while sharply curbing spending on domestic safety-net programs. The outline includes a total of $2.7 trillion in nondefense spending cuts and the administration says the proposal would put the federal government on track to balance the budget by 2034.
The White House’s request for billions of dollars in additional funding for a wall comes as senior Homeland Security officials told Fox News that the administration is preparing for an estimated 180,000 migrants traveling as families to cross the border—either illegally, or claiming asylum—marking a record in family units crossing.
“We want to strengthen legal immigration and welcome more individuals through a merit-based system that enhances our economic vitality and vibrancy of our diverse nation. We also will continue to uphold our humanitarian ideals,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said last week during a House hearing. “But illegal immigration is simply spiraling out of control and threatening public safety and national security.”
The $8.6 billion would allow the administration to complete more than the promised 722 miles of wall along the border, according to White House officials. The funding comes on top of the billions Trump is working to shift from military accounts after declaring a national emergency last month. The emergency declaration came after Congress blocked Trump’s original request for $5.7 billion for construction of the wall. That denial sparked the longest partial shutdown of the federal government in U.S. history.
Democrats, though, continue to argue that an emergency at the border is “non-existent,” and promised to block the proposal to build the wall again.
“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,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.
“Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson,” they said, adding that the funding would be better put to use toward domestic programs like “education and workforce development.”
The administration is expecting pushback on this “tough” budget, according to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
“I would just say that the whole issue of the wall, of border security, is of paramount importance,” Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday. “We have a crisis down there. I think the president has made that case very effectively.”
Trump also proposed $750 billion for defense, representing a 5 percent increase, while cutting non-defense discretionary spending by 5 percent below the cap. The budget will also increase requests for some agencies, while reducing others to reflect those priorities. For example, the 2020 budget seeks to reduce funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Budgets are mainly seen as blueprints for the White House’s priorities and agenda but are often debated and negotiated on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers craft the appropriation bills that eventually fund the government.
And while the budget will suggest it balances in future years, it is also expected to rely on projections for continued economic growth from the tax cuts Trump signed into law in 2017. But there's no guarantee that would cover the lost tax revenues.
By proposing spending levels that don't raise the budget caps, the president is courting a debate with Congress. Lawmakers from both parties have routinely agreed to raise spending caps established by a previous deal years ago to fund the government.
Fox News’ Griff Jenkins, John Roberts, Chris Wallace and The Associated Press contributed to this report.