With the federal budget deficit
expanding and congressional elections seven months away, the Trump
administration plans to ask Congress for cuts in domestic programs that were
part of a bipartisan $1.3 trillion spending bill that President Donald Trump
signed last month.
The White House doesn’t want to
touch extra funding for the military, border security and combating the opioids
crisis in a package of proposed cuts it will send to Congress in the coming
weeks, according to an administration official, who asked for anonymity to
outline the plan.
House Majority Leader Kevin
McCarthy of California has been working with the White House on a using a
budget maneuver called rescission, a Republican aide said. The size of the cuts
that might be sought and a timetable for a Congressional vote hasn’t been
Any attempt to roll back spending
is sure to trigger a backlash from Democrats who negotiated the extra domestic
funding in exchange for agreeing to a bigger budget for the Pentagon. Although
Democrats wouldn’t be able to block it, some Republicans may be reluctant to
blow up one of the few bipartisan agreements that have made it through the
House and Senate.
“The administration is working to
identify potential rescissions and at this point, there is no completed list or
dollar amount,” White House budget office spokeswoman Meghan Burris said.
The spending bill passed the
House on a 256-167 vote and the Senate on a 65-32 vote last month after
Republican leaders urged rank and file to support the military increases
despite the increases for domestic priorities. The 2,232-page measure was the
result of more than a month of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats
in Congress to end a cycle of government shutdown threats and stopgap spending
Although the White House was part
of the negotiations, Trump called the bill “ridiculous” and fumed over the lack
of funding for the $25 billion southern border wall he promised to build during
his presidential campaign. He threatened to veto it but backed down under the
threat of a March 23 government shutdown.
The bill increased military
spending by $80 billion this year above previous spending limits and
non-defense spending by $63 billion. Trump’s 2018 budget had sought a $54
billion cut to non-defense spending.
Along with the $1.5 trillion tax
cut law, the additional spending is likely to balloon the federal budget
deficit, which is on track to hit $804 billion in the fiscal year ending Sept.
30 -- a little more than a month before the election -- from a projected $563
billion shortfall forecast in June, according to a new report by
the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO forecast the deficit will expand to $1
trillion in 2020, two years earlier than previously forecast.
The widening gap takes away one
of the main lines of attack Republicans have used against Democrats in recent
years -- runaway federal spending -- as they are trying to fend off a strong
challenge to their control of the House in the November elections. Feeling the
pressure, House Republicans will vote Thursday on a balanced budget amendment,
a largely symbolic gesture because it has no chance of passing.
The rescissions request makes use
of an obscure provision in the 1974 Budget Act that allows the president to
request the cancellation of some spending and gives Congress 45 days to approve
the measure. Under a 1992 precedent in the Senate that limits debate,
Republicans likely could pass the bill without any Democratic support.
It still would be difficult to
pass in the Senate, according to another Republican aide. That’s because
appropriations panel members would be concerned that making an end run around
Democrats would take away incentives to negotiate on future legislation.
‘Poison the Well’
Democrats delivered a similar
"Advancing a rescission
package like the one described would lay waste to the notion that Republican
leadership negotiated the omnibus in good faith and poison the well for future
responsible, bipartisan legislating," said Matthew Dennis, a spokesman for
House Appropriations Committee Democrats on Friday.
Steve Bell, a former Senate
Republican budget aide of the Bipartisan Policy Center predicted that because
of this, the package will face difficulties in the Senate and may not even be
Bell said he expects the White
House will likely attempt to bring non-defense discretionary levels down by
$120 billion to put it in line with the Trump 2018 budget.
Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for
Common Sense, a spending watchdog group, said the larger the request from
Trump, the more difficult it will be.
"Unless its a really
targeted package that just focuses on some egregious waste, it is going to get
enough people ticked off that it won’t go through" he said.
Budget watchdogs say they would
welcome the chance to reduce the roughly $150 billion spending increase in the
"I don’t have a view yet on
this particular process, but certainly we overspent for FY 2018 and if we can
pare the funds backs a bit -- both on the defense and non-defense side -- that
would be an improvement," Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible
Federal Budget said.
here for the original article from Bloomberg.