WASHINGTON (CN) – Republicans met President Donald Trump’s first budget coldly on Tuesday, while Democrats prepared to use the proposal against Republicans in the critical upcoming midterm elections.
Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget calls for deep cuts to welfare programs, including trimming more than $600 billion from Medicaid, and federal agencies while bumping up spending on defense and national security. The budget was released Monday night and members of the Trump administration delivered it to Congress on Tuesday.
The proposal was met with a combination of shrugs and sharp criticism on Capitol Hill. Sen. John McCain in a statement called the budget “dead on arrival,” while others rushed to remind people that a president’s budget is only a proposal and that Congress still holds the final say in how the government spends its money.
“The president’s budget as we all know is a recommendation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. “Every president since I’ve been here, and that covers a good period of time, has made a recommendation and then we decide what we’re going to do with those recommendations. So we’ll be taking into account what the president recommended but it will not be determinative in every respect.”
McConnell noted that he did not give “ringing endorsements” of budgets former President George W. Bush put out either and pointed out that even some Democrats opposed the proposals that former President Barack Obama put forward.
While Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., blasted the cuts to domestic programs as “non-starters,” other Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., criticized Trump’s plan to cut spending at the State Department.
Meanwhile, Democrats pounced on the budget as a political opportunity, saying its proposed cuts to social programs would hurt the people who put Trump in office the most.
“The great irony of the Trump agenda is it hurts many of the people who supported him in the campaign,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Tuesday. “There is no clearer example of this irony than his budget.”
Democrats pounded this point repeatedly on Tuesday and indicated that it will be a talking point going into next year’s midterm elections, when Democrats hope to use Trump’s unpopularity to win back at least one house of Congress.
“This is a very legitimate thing to bring to people’s attention, that the president’s budget just hurts rural America in very dramatic ways,” Schumer told reporters Tuesday. “He got huge support in rural America, if every one of them knows about this budget his support would diminish severely.”
Rep. John Yarmuth, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, called the budget “shockingly extreme,” while his Senate counterpart, Sen. Bernie Sanders, blasted it as “immoral.” Though Sanders gave some praise to the budget for calling for the nation’s first paid family leave plan, he said even that program would be underfunded under Trump’s plan.
“At a time when the very rich are already getting much richer while the middle class continues to shrink, this is a budget for the billionaire class, for Wall Street, for corporate CEOs and for the wealthiest people in this country,” Sanders said at a press conference Tuesday.
When asked if Democrats would force a vote in the Senate on Trump’s budget in order to show its lack of support as Republicans did to Democrats under Obama, Sanders smiled and said “that may well be possible.”
The White House pushed back against some of the criticism on Tuesday, specifically taking issue with Democrats’ claims that the budget is unreasonable because it requires a 3 percent economic growth rate to balance over 10 years.
“The 1.9 percent growth rates that the previous administration assumed towards the end of their administration and the 1.9 percent growth rates for the entire 10-year window that the Congressional Budget Office assumes, are something we simply reject,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a press briefing on Tuesday. “That is a pessimistic look at what the potential for this country and this country’s people is. We reject that pessimism.”