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Trump’s first budget boosts defense; some GOP push back on cuts

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Wednesday,

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. Photo Credit: AP

WASHINGTON

President Donald Trump put forth a budget outline Thursday boosting defense funds in keeping with his “America first” pledge, but GOP members of Congress were among those who immediately pushed back on the deep cuts proposed elsewhere in government.

His $1.1 trillion discretionary spending plan proposes increases of 10 percent for the Department of Defense, 11.3 percent for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and 6.8 percent for the Department of Homeland Security.

To offset the hikes, it seeks budget slashes at other agencies, including reductions of 28.7 percent at the Department of State, 31.4 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency and 13.2 percent at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Folks who voted for the president are getting exactly what they voted for. Those are the numbers that he campaigned on,” Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney told MSNBC of the fiscal roadmap titled “America First.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) noted that the document serves as a presidential wish list and “it is Congress that will actually set the nation’s policy priorities and fund them.”

He is among GOP leaders opposing State Department cuts affecting international affairs and diplomatic missions.

“These programs are integral to our national security, and cuts at these levels undermine America’s ability to keep our citizens safe,” Rubio said.

The State Department said Trump’s budget supports foreign aid that advances American “security and prosperity,” including $3.1 billion in commitments to Israel.

Mulvaney told reporters at the White House later, “The president believes in diplomacy.”

Challenged on reductions at the housing agency, the budget director said, “Nobody is going to get kicked out of their houses.”

Asked about cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, funded by states using federal money, Mulvaney said the administration wants efficiency for taxpayers.

“It’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore . . . unless we can guarantee to you that that money is actually going to be used in a proper function,’” he said.

Meals on Wheels responded that it is a “proven public-private partnership that effectively meets seniors’ needs.”

Trump’s adjustments to the Homeland Security budget would eliminate or reduce state and local grant funding by $667 million.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) tweeted, “While White House has released no precise #s re: proposed budget cuts to Homeland Security $, any reduction to NY & LI is dead on arrival.”

The so-called skinny budget is a first step in long process of negotiations for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The White House will release a full budget in May, expected to address tax and health care policies and the effect on entitlement programs.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Trump isn’t acting on his populist rhetoric: “The very programs that most help the middle class are those that get clobbered.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said, “What I’m encouraged by is the notion that we’re going to begin rebuilding our military.”

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his top aides discussed the potentially devastating effects of the cuts.

Nearly all federal funding to the NYPD would be “eradicated,” including $110 million gone from counterterrorism programs, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

With Matthew Chayes

Highlights of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget:

  • Defense — Trump proposes a 10 percent increase in the massive defense budget, with an extra $52 billion going to accelerate the war against the Islamic State group and address insufficient weapons stocks, personnel gaps, deferred maintenance and cyber vulnerabilities.
  • Homeland Security. Up 6.8 percent. That’s $2.8 billion more. Most of the increase, $2.6 billion, would be to help kick-start Trump’s promised border wall.
  • Opioid prevention and treatment: a proposed $500 million increase in the Health and Human Services Department to counter the epidemic and more money for the Justice Department to combat the problem.
  • School choice: $1.4 billion more to expand school choice programs, bringing spending in that area to $20 billion, even as the Education Department’s overall budget would be cut by $9 billion, or 13 percent.
  • EPA, facing a 31.4 percent cut, or $2.6 billion. The plan would cut 3,200 jobs at the agency, eliminate a new plan for tighter regulations on power plants, and “zero out” programs to clean up the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay. EPA climate change research would be eliminated.
  • Health and Human Services, facing a $12.6 billion cut, or 16.2 percent. The plan would cut $5.8 billion from the nearly $32 billion National Institutes of Health, the nation’s premier medical research agency, bringing its total to $25.9 billion.
  • State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. Down 28.7 percent. Foreign aid would be reduced, as would money to the UN and to multilateral development banks including the World Bank.

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