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Trump asks Cabinet agencies to cut 5 percent from budgets

Oct 17, 2018
In The News

President Trump asked his Cabinet secretaries Wednesday to cut their budgets by 5 percent, mindful that the government reported a $117 billion increase in the federal deficit just three weeks ahead of the midterm elections.

“Get rid of the fat, get rid of the waste,” Mr. Trump said at a Cabinet meeting. “I’m sure everybody at this table can do it. It’ll have a huge impact. That’s a very, very important request that I’m making.”

He said the Defense Department, which has received a two-year rebuilding plan totaling $1.416 trillion, would be exempt.

 

“Now that we have our military taken care of, we have our law enforcement taken care of, we can do things that we really weren’t in a position to do when I first came,” the president said. “I made deals with the devil in order to get that done.”

A Treasury Department report Monday showed the government ended fiscal 2018 with a deficit of $779 billion, or 17 percent more than fiscal 2017, which was split between President Obama and Mr. Trump.

It’s not clear when any budget cuts would take effect. Mr. Trump asked his Cabinet secretaries to report back to him with proposals at their next meeting, presumably next month, implying the cuts would happen in the current fiscal year.

But the administration can’t trim the current year’s budget without a so-called rescission package that would need to be approved by Congress. Government funding that already has been appropriated by Congress and signed into law by the president cannot, by law, simply sit in accounts unspent beyond the current fiscal year.

The White House and Senate Republicans failed in June to approve rescission legislation that would have cut a mere $15 billion from the fiscal 2018 budget. The measure was approved by the House but rejected in the Senate on a procedural vote of 48-50, with GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine voting against it.

Congress faces a spending deadline in December for portions of the federal government. But that looming battle is unlikely to include significant cuts because the White House wants robust funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which encompasses border protection and the plans for Mr. Trump’s border wall.

The president’s proposal for budget cuts could bolster GOP candidates in the midterm elections with a voter base unhappy about the ever-rising level of federal spending.

Earlier Wednesday, the president told reporters that the budget cuts would be imposed “next year.” 

Asked about the timing of cuts, White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said, “The president has been clear that he is serious about cutting spending, and that was the message he reiterated to his Cabinet today.” 

Mr. Trump noted that last year’s budget included the two-year increase for the military. He said he had to accept huge spending increases in social programs to gain Democrats’ support.

“Last year, [my] first year, I had to do something with the military,” he said. “The military was falling apart, it was depleted, it was in very bad shape. I had to give the Democrats, I call it ‘waste money’ — things that I never would have approved. But we had to do that in order to get their votes, because we don’t have enough Republican votes to do this without them.”

Earlier, Mr. Trump said on Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.”: “We are going to do a lot of cutting” after the midterm elections.

“It’s not as tough as you think,” the president said of budget cuts. “And frankly there is a lot of fat in there, but we had to get the military done.”

Mr. Trump said his budget-cut proposal should be known as “the nickel plan.”

“I have heard about the ‘penny plan’ for 15 years — one penny per year,” Mr. Trump told his Cabinet. “Let’s do the five-penny plan. There’s tremendous amounts of money. I believe we can actually do it easily. We’ll call it the one-year nickel plan. We may do another nickel plan next year, too.”

Last month, Mr. Trump signed a $854 billion spending bill to keep the federal government open through Dec. 7, averting a partial government shutdown ahead of the midterm elections.

In March, Mr. Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill to cover the remainder of fiscal 2018. He vowed at the time he would veto any future appropriations bills with what he considered wasteful spending.

Rep. Roger Williams, Texas Republican, called Mr. Trump’s plan for 5 percent cuts “a step in the right direction.”

“The federal government’s senseless spending habits have gone unchecked at the American taxpayer’s expense,” Mr. Williams said. “I look forward to continuing to cut unnecessary, cost-laden programs that will leave our future generations to deal with burdensome, ancestral debt.”

Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said budget cuts should “start with discretionary spending.”

“Discretionary spending is going to go up to 3 or 4 percent a year,” Mr. Kennedy said, citing Congressional Budget Office projections for the next decade.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blames rising federal deficits on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He said this week there is little chance of a major deficit-reduction deal while Republicans control Congress and the White House.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem,” the Kentucky Republican told Bloomberg News. “It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

“Get rid of the fat, get rid of the waste,” Mr. Trump said at a Cabinet meeting. “I’m sure everybody at this table can do it. It’ll have a huge impact. That’s a very, very important request that I’m making.”

He said the Defense Department, which has received a two-year rebuilding plan totaling $1.416 trillion, would be exempt.

“Now that we have our military taken care of, we have our law enforcement taken care of, we can do things that we really weren’t in a position to do when I first came,” the president said. “I made deals with the devil in order to get that done.”

A Treasury Department report Monday showed the government ended fiscal 2018 with a deficit of $779 billion, or 17 percent more than fiscal 2017, which was split between President Obama and Mr. Trump.

It’s not clear when any budget cuts would take effect. Mr. Trump asked his Cabinet secretaries to report back to him with proposals at their next meeting, presumably next month, implying the cuts would happen in the current fiscal year.

But the administration can’t trim the current year’s budget without a so-called rescission package that would need to be approved by Congress. Government funding that already has been appropriated by Congress and signed into law by the president cannot, by law, simply sit in accounts unspent beyond the current fiscal year.

The White House and Senate Republicans failed in June to approve rescission legislation that would have cut a mere $15 billion from the fiscal 2018 budget. The measure was approved by the House but rejected in the Senate on a procedural vote of 48-50, with GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine voting against it.

Congress faces a spending deadline in December for portions of the federal government. But that looming battle is unlikely to include significant cuts because the White House wants robust funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which encompasses border protection and the plans for Mr. Trump’s border wall.

The president’s proposal for budget cuts could bolster GOP candidates in the midterm elections with a voter base unhappy about the ever-rising level of federal spending.

Earlier Wednesday, the president told reporters that the budget cuts would be imposed “next year.”

Asked about the timing of cuts, White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said, “The president has been clear that he is serious about cutting spending, and that was the message he reiterated to his Cabinet today.”

Mr. Trump noted that last year’s budget included the two-year increase for the military. He said he had to accept huge spending increases in social programs to gain Democrats’ support.

“Last year, [my] first year, I had to do something with the military,” he said. “The military was falling apart, it was depleted, it was in very bad shape. I had to give the Democrats, I call it ‘waste money’ — things that I never would have approved. But we had to do that in order to get their votes, because we don’t have enough Republican votes to do this without them.”

Earlier, Mr. Trump said on Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.”: “We are going to do a lot of cutting” after the midterm elections.

“It’s not as tough as you think,” the president said of budget cuts. “And frankly there is a lot of fat in there, but we had to get the military done.”

Mr. Trump said his budget-cut proposal should be known as “the nickel plan.”

“I have heard about the ‘penny plan’ for 15 years — one penny per year,” Mr. Trump told his Cabinet. “Let’s do the five-penny plan. There’s tremendous amounts of money. I believe we can actually do it easily. We’ll call it the one-year nickel plan. We may do another nickel plan next year, too.”

Last month, Mr. Trump signed a $854 billion spending bill to keep the federal government open through Dec. 7, averting a partial government shutdown ahead of the midterm elections.

In March, Mr. Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill to cover the remainder of fiscal 2018. He vowed at the time he would veto any future appropriations bills with what he considered wasteful spending.

Rep. Roger Williams, Texas Republican, called Mr. Trump’s plan for 5 percent cuts “a step in the right direction.”

“The federal government’s senseless spending habits have gone unchecked at the American taxpayer’s expense,” Mr. Williams said. “I look forward to continuing to cut unnecessary, cost-laden programs that will leave our future generations to deal with burdensome, ancestral debt.”

Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said budget cuts should “start with discretionary spending.”

“Discretionary spending is going to go up to 3 or 4 percent a year,” Mr. Kennedy said, citing Congressional Budget Office projections for the next decade.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blames rising federal deficits on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He said this week there is little chance of a major deficit-reduction deal while Republicans control Congress and the White House.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem,” the Kentucky Republican told Bloomberg News. “It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”