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Pres. Trump releases $1.1 trillion ‘hard power budget’ with cuts to State Dept, EPA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump released a $1.1 trillion budget outline Thursday, March 16th that proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending and corresponding cuts to non-defense spending at the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and the wholesale elimination of other federal programs.

The blueprint features the broad strokes of President Trump’s plan to dramatically remake the federal government, slashing EPA funds by 31%, State Department by 28% and HUD by 13.2%, while zeroing out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Institute of Peace, among others.

The proposal would also reduce funding for multinational organization like the World Bank by $650 million.

Presidential budget plans outline the administration’s priorities but must be approved by Congress and are always changed in the process. President Trump’s administration will release its full budget in May.

State Department

Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, described the proposal as a “hard power budget” in a Wednesday briefing with reporters, meaning President Trump’s administration will prioritize defense spending over diplomacy and foreign aid.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday in Japan that the budget cuts were made because “the level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking in the past, particularly in this past year, is simply not sustainable.”

A US official told CNN earlier this month that cuts would come from the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs and projects the fund programs at United Nations.

“There is no question that this is a hard power budget, it is not a soft power budget,” Mulvaney said. “This is a hard power budget and that was done intentionally. The President very clearly wants to send a message to our allies and our potential adversaries that this is strong power administration.”

EPA

The budget makes good on a series of promises President  Trump made on the campaign trail, including reductions in the EPA in an attempt to “shrink the role of government” in American’s lives.

Sources inside the EPA have told CNN that they anticipate at least 25% in budget cuts, and possibly deeper. Discussions have been ongoing for weeks regarding these cuts, which are expected to include grants to states aimed at protecting air, water and land.

Mulvaney said Wednesday that “core functions of the EPA can be satisfied with this budget,” but officials at the EPA disagree.

“The US EPA is already on a starvation diet, with a bare-bones budget and staffing level. The administration’s proposed budget will be akin to taking away the Agency’s bread and water,” said John O’Grady, head of the union that represents EPA employees. “How can this administration tell America that we will have clean air and clean water with a 25% reduction in US EPA’s budget?”

HUD

The $6.2 billion in HUD cuts come because of President Trump’s desire to “get rid of programs that don’t work,” Mulvaney said Wednesday.

“This budget reflects the President’s commitment to fiscal responsibility while supporting critical functions that provide rental assistance to low-income and vulnerable households and help work-eligible families achieve self-sufficiency,” the budget says. “The budget also recognizes a greater role for State and local governments and the private sector to address community and economic development needs.”

By cutting the Community Development Block Grant program, one of the oldest programs at HUD, President Trump is remaking how the department works with people.

The block grants that fund anti-poverty programs and affordable housing, President Trump’s budget states, “is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results.”

Border wall

The budget blueprint is not a complete budget, meaning it does not include revenue projections, any impacts to mandatory spending and policy projections. But it does detail what President Trump plans to spend his biggest 2016 campaign promise: Building a border wall along the US-Mexico border.

According to Mulvaney, the budget will include a request for $1.5 billion as the first installment payment for President Trump’s promised wall and then another installment of $2.26 billion in 2018.

Mulvaney said, though, that the White House was unable to answer how much the wall will eventually cost or how many miles it will cover.

“We don’t know the answer to that question because we haven’t settled on construction types, we haven’t settled on where we’re going to start,” Mulvaney said. “I think the funding provides for a couple of different pilot cases.”

In their first budget proposal, the White House announced in February that they planned to increase defense spending to $603 billion and decrease non-defense discretionary spending to $462 billion — a swap of roughly $54 billion between the two government buckets.