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Prioritizing the military, Trump to send “America first” budget to Congress

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By Stefan Grobe
Prioritizing the military, Trump to send “America first” budget to Congress

Determined to make good on his campaign promises, US President Donald Trump will send his first “America first” budget proposal to Congress on Thursday that includes deep cuts to federal programs in order to pay for a huge military and homeland security build-up.

“This is a hard power budget, not a soft power budget”, said Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), at a press briefing at the White House on Wednesday. “With this budget, the President wants to send a message to our allies and adversaries.”

Among Trump’s proposals is a ten percent increase in military spending of $54 billion (50 billion euros). Trump has said during the campaign that he wants to fund additional warships for the navy and step up combat operations abroad among other things.

“Unfortunately, we have no alternative but to reinvest in our military and make ourselves a military power once again,” National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The blue print budget also seeks 1.5 billion (1.4 billion euros) to start building a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, probably the most controversial of Trump’s campaign promises.

During his campaign, Trump had constantly said that Mexico would pay for the wall, something the Mexican government keeps denying.

The issue might not be settled yet. For now, the funds for the wall in the draft budget come from the US Treasury, Mulvaney confirmed.

The budget blue print, if adopted, will drastically change the way Washington works as it will considerably downsize the federal workforce in the capital.

While prioritizing the military and homeland security, the budget proposal slashes by the same size many other areas, including housing, foreign assistance, environmental programs, public broadcasting and research.

The federal government is projected to spend $4.1 trillion (3.8 trillion euros) next year, with roughly two-thirds of that going mostly toward Social Security, retirement and poverty assistance and interest payments on the government debt.

This so-called “entitlement” spending will be left untouched in the budget proposal. Trump pledged to protect the social programs during the campaign.

What Trump will propose changing is the rest of the budget, known as discretionary spending, which is authorized each year by Congress.

Slightly more than half of this remaining money goes to the military, and the rest is spread across agencies that operate things like education, diplomacy, housing, transportation and law enforcement.

Early drafts described by government officials call for dramatic cuts at some agencies: a quarter of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, roughly a third of the State Department’s spending.

Especially the cuts at the State Department have been raising eyebrows in Washington and internationally, as they suggest a diminished role of US diplomacy in the Trump administration.

But budget director Mulvaney rejected such worries. “We have protected the core diplomatic function of the State Department”, he said.

The budget proposal will likely set off tough political fights, with Democrats and moderate Republicans worried the budget could force tough decisions on popular programs such as aid for disabled children and hot meals for the elderly – and conservatives pushing for more cuts down the line.

The budget blueprint represents Trump’s priorities for government spending in the coming fiscal year but it will ultimately be up to Congress to decide how to allocate funds.
Even though Trump’s Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the budget could face resistance. Some moderate Republicans have already expressed unease with some of the proposed spending cuts.