For good measure, Trump is proposing hundreds of billions in new cuts to Medicare, a program he vowed as a candidate to leave alone and which he generally laid off a year ago. But those reductions, too, aren’t going to happen.
Why the disconnect? While the Trump administration is proposing the cuts to offset big funding increases for defense and border security, Congress has already decided to just spend more on everything. In a rare moment of bipartisan accord, lawmakers last week adopted a two-year budget agreement that calls for $300 billion in additional spending. That deal supersedes both the dead-on-arrival fiscal 2018 budget proposal Trump issued last May and the similarly doomed 2019 blueprint the White House delivered on Monday.
Congress still needs to pass an omnibus spending bill that will actually appropriate money for the remainder of the fiscal year in accordance with the budget caps that the House and Senate approved last week. But the appropriations bills that House Republicans advanced last summer for fiscal year 2018 offer a clue into just how far apart the Trump administration is from its ostensible allies on Capitol Hill.
While the president called for reducing the EPA’s budget by one-third, House Republicans proposed cutting it by just 6 percent. They went for a much more modest cut to the State Department, not the sharp reductions the White House wanted. They increased funding for medical research rather than cut it as Trump proposed. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities similarly saw only small reductions in the GOP proposal. And because the House drafts did not reflect the bipartisan agreement for more spending that was reached last week, those departments and agencies might be spared altogether in the next two years.
The budget deal in Congress scrambled the administration’s plans for 2019, prompting Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to adjust Trump’s proposals to account for the higher spending lawmakers agreed to. Mulvaney is the principal author of the budget blueprint, and the most dramatic cuts reflect his ideology as a spending hawk more than the president’s own tolerance for debt. The revised, $4.4 trillion budget proposal restored some major cuts to the State Department that were not enacted last year, as well as other reductions across the government. But the administration intentionally did not increase its proposed spending as high as Congress would have allowed. “These are spending caps. They’re not spending floors,” Mulvaney said on Fox News Sunday. “So you don’t have to spend all that.”
The last-minute changes weren’t enough to assuage the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Ed Royce of California. He vowed: “A strong, bipartisan coalition in Congress has already acted once to stop deep cuts to the State Department and Agency for International Development that would have undermined our national security. This year, we will act again.”