by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Trump fired the opening salvo for war over government spending with his first federal budget blueprint last month. But this “skinny budget” was limited to the new president’s outlook on discretionary spending levels set by lawmakers each year, leaving special interests to compete for slices of a shrinking pie.
So the real action lies ahead on Capitol Hill.
“It’s the president’s suggestions essentially to Congress,” said Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Budget. He added it “doesn’t give them a lot of details to start their own budget resolution.”
Some of President Obama’s budgets won zero votes in Congress. His 2016 spending plan was rejected 98 to 1 in the Senate, and his 2015 blueprint went down 413 to 2 in the House. It’s ultimately the appropriations process that matters.
Trump’s spending priorities may fare little better. Democrats and centrist Republicans balk at deep cuts in domestic spending. National security hawks believe Trump is skimping on defense, while some budget hawks believe he’s excessively generous to the Pentagon, blowing through the Budget Control Act caps that were arguably the biggest fiscal concession Republicans extracted from Obama.
The State Department budget would be slashed 28 percent. The Environmental Protection Agency would fare worse, with a 31 percent cut. The Department of Health and Human Services budget would tumble 18 percent. Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts would be zero — not a nickel.