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Winners and losers in Trump's 'America First Budget'

President Donald Trump looks over towards Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, left, after signing an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 13, 2017. Trump signed "Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch". From left are, Mulvaney, Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Vice President Mike Pence, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

On Thursday morning, the White House officially released its budget blueprint, a proposal for government spending that prioritizes investment in America's defense and security while cutting funds to other agencies that deal with non-defense programs.

The Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security both emerge as the big winners in President Donald Trump's first budget, while the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Education, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other federal agencies are left with a much smaller share of federal funds.

In the president's opening message in the budget document, he makes perfectly clear that his proposal will "reprioritize federal spending" in order to make good on his campaign promise to keep America safe. The dollar amount on fulfilling that promise is $54 billion in additional defense spending, a 10 percent hike over Fiscal Year 2017. At the Department of Homeland Security, the administration hopes to invest an additional $3 billion to go towards border security, immigration enforcement and law enforcement. Also included in the DHS budget is $1.4 billion to start construction of the border wall with Mexico.

The biggest losers in the president's budget are the EPA, which could see 31 percent of its funding disappear, the State Department, possibly facing 29 percent cuts, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) could lose 21 percent of its funding, and the Department of Labor and Health and Human Services could also see their budgets cut by nearly one-fifth.

Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney succinctly outlined the administration's top priority, namely shifting from a "soft power" to a "hard power" budget.

"This is the message the president wanted to send to the public, to the press, to Capitol Hill: He wants more money for defense, more money for border enforcement, more money for law enforcement generally, more money for the vets and more money for school choice," ulvaney told reporters at the White House.

The budget director continued that the reallocation of funds "should surprise no one." Throughout the campaign, Trump promised to put "America first," and that is what the budget does, he said, by cutting foreign aid, defunding climate initiatives, and making big investments int the military and national security apparatus.

Essentially, each item slated for an increase or a cut is directly all aligned with Trump's promises on the campaign trail. As Mulvaney said it earlier this week, "If he said it on the campaign, it's in the budget."

The "America First" label on the budget is best reflected in the "deep cuts" to foreign aid and State Department programs, including major decreases in funding to the United Nations, where the United States now contributes more than 20 percent of its regular budget. "It is time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share," Trump wrote in the introduction to his budget.

The cuts to other federal agencies and departments to offset the spending increases are "sensible and rational," Trump said, and will ultimately encourage the government to do more with less. "Every agency and department will be driven to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending," he said.

While Democrats have already lined up on the House and Senate side to oppose the proposed 2018 budget, House Speaker Paul Ryan is pumping the brakes. Already, his caucus is in a drag-out fight over the GOP's Obamacare replacement bill, which just narrowly made it out of the Budget Committee on Thursday with three conservatives opposing the legislation.

Ryan emphasized that the president's submission is "just the very beginning" of the lengthy budgeting process. When pressed by reporters to comment on specific budget cuts, he demurred, saying, "Do I think we can cut spending and get waste out of government? Absolutely. But where and how and what numbers, that's something we'll be figuring out as time goes on."

Congress will have to pass a supplemental budget later this year. In December, Congress authorized just enough money to fund the government through late April. The supplemental budget also reflects the White House agenda and includes a request for an additional $30 billion in defense spending, plus additional Homeland Security funds to go towards constructing the border wall. Those new expenses would be only partially offset by $18 billion in cuts to the non-defense discretionary budget.

The White House also hopes to satisfy fiscal conservatives with a budget that it argues will not add to the deficit, offsetting all new spending with deep cuts elsewhere.

Under current Congressional Budget Office projections, the U.S. deficit will grow to $488 billion next year, largely as a result of non-discretionary spending programs such as Medicare, Social Security, and interest payments on the national debt. Those programs are not included in the so-called "skinny budget," but will be taken up in the full presidential budget which will be released in May.

While some agencies and programs will see their top lines reduced, others will see their budgets eliminated altogether. If Congress were to adopt Trump's budget as presented, it would mean an end to funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Endowment for the Arts, to name a few. A number of education grant programs for low-income college students would be cut off, along with job corps programs, community development block grants, the Meals on Wheels program, and a slew of green energy programs.

To offset the "hard power" budget with increased defense and homeland security costs, literally dozens of government programs would stop receiving federal dollars.

Only hours after the official release of Trump's budget, House and Senate Democrats had already begun tearing it apart.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) attacked the budget proposal as "a slap in the face of the future."

She continued that the purpose of the Trump administration's deep cuts to federal agencies "is to deconstruct government," an argument that has been made repeatedly by top White House adviser Steve Bannon.

According to Sen. Chris Van Hollen(D-Md.), the individuals who are going to be hurt the most by the president's budget live in the counties that delivered Trump his victory in November.

"If you look at the areas where Donald Trump did especially well, they get especially hard hit by this budget," Van Hollen said. Rural areas will see major cuts in Department of Agriculture programs that included rural economic development and basic infrastructure assistance, like wastewater treatment.

"I think this is going to be a wake-up call to a lot of people who supported Donald Trump that his budget is betraying them and the commitments he made," the senator argued.

The top Democrat on the House Budget Committee called into question whether the president's proposal was even serious.

"I don't think the administration realistically believes that the cuts that they're proposing would be eventually made," said John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) "I can't imagine that they would actually want them to be made."

Mick Mulvaney immediately recognized that the proposal would have its opponents on Capitol Hill, acknowledging that some of the president's cuts would be "very unpopular." The reason the president was able to make the tough decisions that Congress has trouble making, according to the congressman turned budget director, is because lawmakers on the Hill are beholden to special interests and lobbyists.

"The president is beholden to none of that," Mulvaney charged. "He did not ask lobbyists for input on this, he did not ask special interests for input on this, and he certainly didn't focus on how these programs might impact a specific congressional district."

With the framework laid out by President Trump, it is now up to the House and Senate to work through the supplemental budget, and then begin to craft a spending a bill for fiscal year 2018, a months long process that must culminate before October 1.

The full presidential budget, including Trump's tax plan and strategy for tackling the deficit will be released by May, according to the White House.


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