WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday proposed a $4.8 trillion election-year budget that would slash major domestic and safety net programs, setting up a stark contrast with President Donald Trump’s rivals as voting gets underway in the Democratic presidential primary.
The budget would pursue hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid and seek reductions in the Children’s Health Insurance Program while wringing some savings from Medicare despite Trump’s repeated promises to safeguard the program for older Americans.
The budget is a proposal to Congress, and lawmakers have mostly rejected the White House’s proposed cuts in the past. Still, the budget plan sets up the Trump administration’s policy priorities heading into the November elections and are likely to draw scrutiny in Washington and on the campaign trail. Trump has in the past not shown much interest in pursuing the budget cuts his aides have offered, and he didn’t make public comments about the plan on Monday.
Instead, one of his top advisers defended the proposed cuts, even as Democratic presidential candidates blasted the reductions.
Russell Vought, acting White House budget director, touted the proposed spending increases in the budget for NASA, immigration, opioid mitigation and veterans, while denying it would lead to benefit reductions for Medicare and Medicaid, as Democrats charged.
“This continues to be a budget that funds priorities where the president supports spending money,” Vought told reporters.
The new budget would slash the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 26.5% over the next year, and cut the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services budget by 9%.
The plan would target the Education Department for a nearly 8% cut, the Interior Department would be cut 13.4%, and the Housing and Urban Development department would be cut 15.2%. The State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development would be cut by 22%.
Trump has sought spending cuts in the past, only to back down immediately during negotiations with Democrats.
Even some of Trump’s staunchest allies criticized his sharp cuts for domestic agencies, such as the Agriculture Department, which he is targeted for an 8% overall reduction.
Trump has made homelessness a key focus in the past year, but his budget would seek a big reduction in housing funds. He proposed an $8.6 billion cut for the Department of Housing and Urban Development for 2021, a 15.2% decrease from the amount enacted for 2020.
Parts of the budget, however, show how the White House has shifted in the face of political blowback from past plans. It would preserve, for example, a handful of politically sensitive programs that in some cases have provoked uproars and caused Trump to backpedal when he’s tried to cut them in the past.
These include the Special Olympics and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — a program important to Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, critical states for the 2020 election.
Still, some agencies would be spared from cuts or even see a proposed increase.
Trump’s new budget calls for an increase for the Department of Homeland Security, while keeping Pentagon spending mostly flat. The NASA budget would increase by 12% with new money aimed at putting U.S. astronauts back on the moon.
Even with all the other proposed spending cuts, the budget would not eliminate the federal deficit over the next 10 years, missing a longtime GOP fiscal target. Instead, White House officials said their budget proposal would close the deficit by 2035.
But it would only achieve this if the economy grows at an unprecedented, sustained 3% clip through 2025, levels the administration has failed to achieve for even one year so far. The U.S. economy grew 2.3% in 2019, the weakest level since Trump took office. Many economists believe economic growth will remain sluggish this year.