President Donald Trump will include an unorthodox blend of policy requests in his first official budget, combining uncharacteristically liberal demands with calls for the most extreme domestic spending cuts the country has ever seen.
Details leaked by the White House suggest the president’s fiscal year 2018 spending plan — expected Tuesday — reflects the administration’s internal divisions. It will simultaneously require states to provide the kind of paid family leave programs championed by Trump’s daughter Ivanka and propose slashing everything from disability payments to farm subsidies and public housing, reflecting the views of budget director Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
The budget is expected to go much further than the $54 billion in spending cuts Trump called for in his preliminary “skinny budget” in March, which completely wiped out more than 60 domestic programs, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the document.
In a decade, the proposed cap on discretionary spending is expected to be roughly $360 billion, according to one source — nearly $200 billion below current domestic spending levels. That figure would bring Congress back to 2001 spending levels, likely be too extreme for most Republicans.
But at the same time, Trump will propose adding $200 billion in federal infrastructure spending over ten years in the hope of spurring an additional $800 billion in public and private investment. His family leave proposal — requiring states to provide six weeks of paid leave to new parents, could cost $25 billion, and goes beyond what most GOP lawmakers support.
The internal contradictions are already spurring a hostile response from Republicans ultimately in charge of writing federal spending levels.
As some figures have leaked out ahead of the budget release, GOP legislators have reacted with fury, speaking directly to Mulvaney in recent days.
Plenty of Republicans on Capitol Hill have publicly pressured Trump to roll back what they called draconian cuts to programs like the State Department, the National Institutes of Health and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
“I’m deeply concerned about the severity of the domestic cuts,” Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who oversees spending for international programs, told POLITICO on Friday. “We’ll see how that changes.”
“This is Mulvaney’s budget,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said this week. “Like I want to go home after having voting against Meals on Wheels and say, ‘Oh it’s a bad program, keeping seniors alive.’ There’s just some of the stuff in here that doesn’t make any sense. … Frankly, you can’t pass these budgets on the floor.”
Meanwhile, on the issue of paid family leave, GOP lawmakers have advocated a more hands-off approach than the Trump administration will propose. Congressional Republicans have bucked Democratic calls for a government-run insurance program to facilitate paid leave and have instead pushed legislation that would provide tax credits to businesses that voluntarily provide that benefit to employees.
And Trump can’t expect support from Democrats who anticipate Republicans will switch out the president’s liberal-leaning proposal on paid leave for their own plans.
“I’m not going to watch it get watered down just for the sake of a press release saying, ‘We voted for paid leave,'” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), a top appropriator who has introduced paid leave legislation herself, said in an interview Friday.
With Mulvaney set to testify before spending committees in both the House and Senate in the days immediately following the Tuesday budget release, DeLauro and her Democratic colleagues are prepared to personally attack the OMB director, who has justified calls for massive domestic cuts by suggesting programs like Meals on Wheels don’t deliver results.
“You know, have real-life experience. Don’t just sit someplace and talk about it,” DeLauro said Friday, suggesting Mulvaney should do a ride-along with a Meals on Wheels volunteer to witness the program’s effect on senior citizens.
The document released Tuesday will also offer the first glimpse at how the new White House would tackle mandatory spending — the largest driver of the federal deficit — at the same time it proposes the largest-ever increase in defense spending.
Lawmakers and aides say Trump will not cut funding from Medicare or Social Security, abiding by a highly visible campaign promise despite its complex budgetary implications. But some safety-net advocates believe the White House could still seek reductions to those programs by arguing that the administration is simply trying to eliminate waste and fraud.
Several sources said the Trump budget is expected to trim parts of Medicare that don’t directly fund benefits. And some also said the budget will target Social Security Disability Insurance, which is technically separate from the far larger program for seniors.
Given the unpopularity of Trump’s proposed cuts, even among those in his own party, Democrats say their opposition will be easily waged.
“In the skinny budget, they telegraphed dramatic and draconian cuts,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), ranking member on the House subcommittee that handles funding for military construction and Veterans Affairs, told reporters Friday. “If they’re worse than that, then I have my battle arms already.”
But opposition to Trump’s budget is tempered by the fact that no part of any White House budget is destined to become law.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a top appropriator who speaks frequently with Mulvaney, said a White House budget is purely symbolic. He said he is more anxious about the House budget, which will set the amount of money Congress can spend next year.
“I’ve often said, the budget around here is an exercise in confederate money. It’s not real,” Dent said. “We spend a lot of time fighting about things that are aspirational and messaging points.”