President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, at long last released Tuesday, differs from his predecessor’s blueprints in many ways — massive cuts to the social safety net, optimistic growth forecasts to achieve balance in 10 years, and dramatic tax cuts for corporations.
But just like President Barack Obama’s budgets, even with a Republican Congress that shares many of the White House’s priorities, the collective response among lawmakers Tuesday morning was agreement this budget would never pass.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Monday that Trump’s proposal is “dead on arrival.” After the release of the plan, Republican lawmakers have been quick to agree with his sentiment, reminding reporters the White House’s proposal should be viewed merely as a suggestion.
Some moderate Republican lawmakers would prefer not to think about Trump’s ultra-conservative plan at all.
“I don’t pay very much attention to presidential budgets, no matter what party the president is from,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) bluntly told Independent Journal Review on Tuesday morning.
Trump’s budget proposal touts $3.6 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, much of which would be accrued via cuts to welfare. It adds $25.4 billion to defense spending for the fiscal year 2018 and boosts funding for border security and Trump’s planned wall on the Mexican border.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a senior appropriator who also sits on the House Budget Committee, said the proposal will have some degree of impact on the work of the Budget Committee but emphasized it shouldn’t be regarded too seriously.
“Again, it’s something Congress ought to take a look at and move from, but it’s going to be like all other presidential budgets,” Cole told IJR. “It’s not going to survive intact.”
The candid congressman questioned several of the proposal’s cuts, especially those to the National Institute of Health. “I think there’s some cuts that are, frankly, more symbolic than helpful,” Cole said.
Cole added that there are some spending cuts in Trump’s budget proposal he does support, but he simply doesn’t believe those can make it through Congress. “The appropriations process has to be bipartisan,” he explained.
Republican lawmakers who take issue with Trump’s conservative budget proposal are likewise doubtful that budgeters on the Hill will pursue something similar to Trump’s outline.
“It’s pretty hardcore,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) told reporters. “It’s going to be difficult to get a budget anyway, so we’ll see.”
Republican lawmakers irked the Trump administration in April when they passed an omnibus spending package that didn’t include many policy wins for the White House in order to keep the government open through September. Trump reportedly considered vetoing the spending bill at the time, and more recently, he threatened to not sign the next spending bill to keep the government running in September if his priorities aren’t reflected in it.
Still, Cole believes the White House will have to negotiate with Democrats. Accomplishing some of Trump’s goals isn’t out of reach, Cole said, but some plans in the budget proposal are “not likely to survive.”
“We’ve seen sort of a snapshot of the president’s budget, and it seems rather harsh,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said Tuesday morning. “Draconian cuts to much-needed social services, maybe build the wall and do some other things the president wants to do, but that’s just his blueprint. It doesn’t mean that’s what Congress is going to adopt.”
Members of the House Budget Committee who spoke with IJR this week were reluctant to provide details about their plans for welfare reform, but some have indicated mandatory spending cuts aren’t as high of a priority in their budget as the White House proposal.
Unsurprisingly, fiscal conservatives — like members of the House Freedom Caucus — said they were encouraged by the welfare reform components of the proposal, which were drafted primarily by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a founding member of the Freedom Caucus.
Mulvaney’s hardline conservative policies included in the budget proposal were met with skepticism by moderate Republican lawmakers. Some weren’t sure if Mulvaney would have supported the budget had he remained in Congress.
“Even [Mulvaney] might have voted no,” Upton laughingly told reporters. “He’s a scorched earth guy.”
One thing Republicans agreed on was the idea of having a balanced budget. Conservative and moderate Republicans alike praised Trump after the proposal’s release for putting forward a balanced plan.
“We finally have a president who’s willing to actually balance the budget,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said at a press conference Tuesday morning.
Mulvaney’s plan for keeping the budget balanced over 10 years hinges on a GOP tax reform, which the White House expects to boost economic growth to over 3 percent. While the budget proposal factors in that economic growth, it neglects to include the projected loss in revenue under Trump’s whopping tax cuts, which would bring the corporate tax rate down from 35 percent to 15 percent. Simply put, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, the math just doesn’t add up.
And that uncertainty won’t do congressional Republicans any favors as they get to work on their own budget in the coming weeks.
A GOP aide told IJR the House Budget Committee should complete their budget by around June 15, and lawmakers on the appropriations subcommittees will be able to start working on their respective funding bills soon after. The release of Trump’s final budget proposal — while lawmakers don’t take it very seriously — marks another step forward in the remarkably delayed appropriations process for the fiscal year 2018.