Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers rejected President Donald Trump’s proposed budget blueprint even before it was formally released Tuesday, saying that the cuts are too steep and the accounting is too unrealistic. Lawmakers said the document, which reflects the president’s broad vision, will go nowhere in Congress.
Trump’s proposal, which is the more complete version to the “skinny budget” the White House released in March, seeks to dramatically cut programs for low-income Americans while exponentially increasing defense spending. It also makes drastic cuts to environmental protection programs, agriculture and a host of other programs that senators say go too far.
Sen. John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, called it “dead on arrival.”
“Almost every president’s budget proposal is basically dead on arrival, including President Obama’s,” Cornyn said, making the point that such proposals are more statements of priorities than legislation. He added that Trump’s budget “may find a similar fate.”
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Democrats immediately criticized Trump and his budget, saying the president who ran as a populist has gone against his campaign promises to help the most in need.
“It’s not good for West Virginia,” Sen. Joe Manchin, R-W.V., said of the proposal. “All the cuts for all the services for some of the neediest people in this country — I have quite a large delegation in my state. They’re going to be hurt.” Trump won West Virginia by nearly 42 percent in November.
The budget disproportionately impacts lower-income Americans. It proposes an additional $600 billion in cuts to Medicaid, beyond the proposed $800 billion worth of cuts to low-income health program proposed in the Republican American Health Care Act, which passed the House this month. Trump pledged not to cut Medicaid as a candidate last year.
Additionally, Trump’s proposal adds one-quarter of a trillion dollars of cuts over ten years to low-income assistance programs, such as food stamps; the food program for women, infants and children, WIC; health insurance for low-income children, known as S-CHIP; and welfare, or TANF. It also adds work requirements for all three programs, saying it will “replace dependency with dignity of work.”
Another rural state Democrat, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, said Trump’s budget is “not good” for rural residents. “It’s especially cruel, quite frankly, to people who are up against it and need a hand up.”
Tester acknowledged that Trump won the majority of votes among rural Americans last year, saying the proposed proposal creates “an interesting dichotomy.”
Republicans are also taking issue with some of the cuts. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that despite the proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending, the proposed 29 percent cut to the State Department budget is a major security concern.
“If we implemented this budget, we’d have to retreat from the world or put a lot of people at risk — a lot of Benghazi’s in the making if we actually implemented the State Dept cuts,” said Graham. “So this budget is not going to go anywhere.”
Sen. John Hoeven, D-N.D., criticized the proposed reductions to agriculture programs. He said Congress has already cut $100 billion to such programs for the next ten years and that further reductions will harmful.
“It has some good ideas but we’ll write our own budget,” Hoeven said. “I’ll call this a starting point.”
And Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, criticized cuts to a flood protection system that Louisiana relies on.
“I strongly oppose,” the proposed reductions, Cassidy said. “Our coast line — we just need to that to keep another Katrina from bashing our state.”
Despite Trump’s massive proposed cuts to Medicaid, he kept the two other major entitlement programs – Social Security and Medicaid – largely untouched. (He did proposed cuts to recipients who receive Social Security because of a disability, however.)
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said that the deep cuts are a good start and that Trump has started “a very important discussion,” but he believes Social Security and Medicare should also be looked at.
“I think that right now those all fall into a group of things that are unsustainable. We gotta figure out how we help people who need help,” Tillis said.
The proposal claims that it will save $1.2 trillion dollars in the next ten years with the help of three percent growth to achieve that, something lawmakers say is overly optimistic.
“It’s looking a little light on that right now,” Manchin said of the prospects of 3 percent growth.
House Speaker Paul Ryan refrained from criticism but said that he supports the president’s broader objective.
“Clearly Congress will take that budget and work on our own budget, which is the case every single year. But at least we now have common objectives — grow the economy, balance the budget. So now we are on common ground and we will have a great debate on the details of how to achieve that,” Ryan said.
The entire document wasn’t criticized, however. Republicans largely support a $54 billion in crease in military spending. And Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., chair of the transportation subcommittee of the Environment and Public Works Committee, praised a proposed $200 billion in infrastructure spending.
“I am very interested in what he’s doing with the $200 billion in transportation,” Inhofe said.