WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s first spending plan, set to be submitted Thursday to Congress, would bolster defense resources in what his budget director called a message of “hard power” to allies and adversaries abroad.
But the $54 billion boost for the Pentagon would be offset by a “dramatic reduction” of 28 percent at the Department of State and slashed funding at other agencies, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, confirmed Wednesday.
The Environmental Protection Agency faces a 31 percent cut, The New York Times reported.
“This is a hard-power budget; it is not a soft-power budget,” Mulvaney said, previewing the blueprint ahead of its release. The budget would funnel $1.5 billion this fiscal year and $2.6 billion next fiscal year toward the wall Trump proposed along the border of the United States and Mexico, Mulvaney added.
The cuts proposed by the president are expected to meet resistance even in a Congress controlled by his party.
Some GOP senators already have cautioned against State Department reductions rolling back foreign aid that they say is an effective diplomatic tool.
Mulvaney did not address how Mexico would compensate the United States for erecting the border wall, adding that the administration hasn’t settled on types of construction or where to begin building. Among Trump’s key campaign promises was getting Mexico to foot the bill.
The State Department reduction mostly would curb foreign aid, Mulvaney said, adding, “We believe that we have protected the core diplomacy function.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who serves on his chamber’s budget, appropriations and armed services committees, told MSNBC last month about the State Department cuts: “It’s not going to happen. It would be a disaster. If you take soft power off the table, then you’re never going to win the war.”
Trump’s budget outline for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 kicks off the negotiation process with Congress. It’s known as the “skinny budget” because it contains top-line priorities with the full, detailed proposal to come later.
Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said Wednesday that cuts in domestic programs would hurt everyday Americans.
“You’re talking about doing real damage to many very, very important initiatives from the federal government: housing programs, education programs,” Yarmuth told reporters. “If they want to negotiate with the health and safety and future of the American people, then that’s pretty cynical.”
Marc Goldwein, senior policy director for the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said of Trump: “I’m not sure he’s going to get Congress to support this level of cuts. While people don’t like spending in the abstract, they do like specific programs that either give money to their constituents or their special interests.”
Meanwhile Wednesday, Trump met with auto industry representatives in Detroit, where he said his plans to re-examine federal fuel efficiency standards would spark a revival of American-produced vehicles.
“We’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” he said at the American Center for Mobility, using the acronym for Corporate Average Fuel Economy. “ . . . There is no more beautiful sight than an American-made car.”
The Trump administration seeks to roll back the mile-per-gallon targets set by the government for new car and light trucks — standards that were at the heart of former President Barack Obama’s strategy to fight global warming.
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, argued, “The current standards helped the auto companies move from bankruptcy to profitability, and there is no reason they cannot be met.”
Trump also flew to Nashville, Tennessee, to lay a wreath at the grave of former President Andrew Jackson and host a campaign rally.