Billions for Border Wall, Military in Trump Budget

WASHINGTON (CN) – The budget blueprint President Donald Trump released Thursday morning would funnel $54 billion more toward the military in 2018, offset by deep cuts to the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and other domestic groups.

The boom in defense spending is a 10 percent increase from the levels contained in the budget deal Congress struck last year. Dubbed the “America First Budget,” Trump says the increase will help members of the military “do only one thing: win.”

Some of the additional $2.6 billion Trump wants set aside for border-security measures will go toward building a wall along the southern border. 

“Our aim is to meet the simple, but crucial demand of our citizens – a government that puts the needs of its own people first,” Trump’s message to Congress that opens the budget reads. “When we do that, we will set free the dreams of every American, and we will begin a new chapter of American greatness.”

The Trump budget completely pays for the increase in defense spending by cutting nondefense programs. Hit hardest are the EPA, whose budget Trump would slash by 31 percent, and the State Department, which would lose 28 percent of its funding.

“We are going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people,” Trump wrote in his message to Congress.

Trump’s proposal also calls for a 3.8 percent slash of the Department of Justice’s budget. The DOJ faces a nearly $1 billion cut from construction spending in federal prisons, and it will lose a $210 million program that reimbursed some states for the cost of detaining undocumented immigrants. 

These cuts would offset a $249 million increase in the FBI’s budget, as well as an additional $175 million going to federal law-enforcement groups that Trump hailed as targeting “the worst-of-the-worst criminal organizations and drug traffickers.” 

The budget outright eliminates funding for a number of cultural programs, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Also getting the ax would be the Legal Services Corp., which helps fund legal aid for low-income people across the country.

Missing from the budget outline is funding for a massive infrastructure project that Trump has promised to undertake. One of the few issues on which Democrats have indicated they might work with Trump, the budget released Thursday promises more details “in the coming months.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., criticized Trump for the exclusion of infrastructure from his budget plan and also for cutting back on existing spending in the area.

“You can have all the meetings you want at the White House, you can tweet all you want about the importance of modernizing our infrastructure, but this is where the rubber hits the road,” Van Hollen said at a press conference Thursday. “This is the budget that’s supposed to outline the president’s priorities, and clearly they’re saying one thing and doing something very different.”

Not a final proposal, the budget is a preliminary outline of a more fully formed plan Trump will release later this year. Still, Senate Democrats made it clear almost immediately they will push back on Trump’s priorities.

“The president’s proposed budget cuts are devastating to the middle class,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “Once again the Trump administration is showing its true colors: talk like a populist but govern like a special-interests zealot. This budget shifts the burden off of the wealthy and special interests and puts it squarely on the backs of the middle class and those struggling to get there.” 

But clocking in at more than $1.1 trillion, the proposal could face some trouble even from within Trump’s party.

Van Hollen predicted some parts of Trump’s plan, specifically cuts to programs that disproportionately benefit red states, might make it difficult to pass.

“I have to believe that my Republican colleagues, other Republican senators are going to look at this budget, they’re going to see that it dramatically disinvests in their states and rural America,” Van Hollen said at a press conference.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan did not enthusiastically support the budget proposal on Thursday, but said it is a starting point and represents a change from those the Obama administration put forward.

“Do I think we can cut spending and get waste out of government?” Ryan said at a press conference Thursday. “Absolutely. Where and how and what numbers, that’s something we’ll be figuring out as time goes on. This is just the very beginning of that process.”

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