The president’s first blueprint would deeply cut State Department funds while boosting defense and law enforcement funding.
The “deconstruction of the administrative state” now comes with line items.
President Donald Trump will release his blueprint for reshaping the American government on Thursday, a budget plan that slashes deeply into the State Department, redirects funds toward the military, guts environmental and housing programs—and continues to run a nearly half-trillion-dollar deficit.
Every dollar of proposed cutbacks to domestic, diplomatic and international aid programs that Trump makes in the spending plan will go to boost defense and law enforcement funding.
“There’s no question this is a hard-power budget,” said Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. “It is not a soft-power budget.”
The document, scheduled to be posted online at 7 a.m. Thursday, represents the most concrete translation of Trump’s nationalistic and populist rhetoric on the campaign trail into dollars and cents.
Mulvaney said his team literally pored over Trump’s speeches to prepare the plan. “We wrote it using the president’s own words,” he said. “We turned those policies into numbers.”
Those numbers are stark, particularly for the State Department. Mulvaney said it would be cut by 28 percent — “a fairly dramatic reduction,” he said — but still smaller than the initial 37 percent gutting floated in February. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has pushed for more time to assess where to make such severe cuts.
Some domestic programs, such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports PBS and NPR, are on the chopping block for elimination entirely. Trump is pushing numerous such cuts, long sought by conservative Republicans, in the spending plan, while allocating “more money for things like private and public school choice,” Mulvaney said.
As proposed, the Trump budget almost certainly will not pass Congress. Too many lawmakers, including many Republicans, have declared it dead on arrival. But the document nonetheless represents a crucial road map for a president who is new to government, and who has at least a full term to pursue his goals. It is the clearest practical expression yet of what Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon described as the “deconstruction of the administrative state” last month and his agenda of “economic nationalism.”
“This budget is the first step toward what will be, three or four years from now, a dramatically different federal government,” said Newt Gingrich, an informal Trump adviser and former House speaker who understands the power of even a small shift in the $4 trillion federal budget.
“We have never had anybody like him,” he added. “He’s one-third Andrew Jackson for disruption, one-third Theodore Roosevelt for energy, one third P.T. Barnum for salesmanship. If you weave those together you understand what Trump is.”
In a 30-minute budget briefing on Wednesday, Mulvaney, a conservative former congressman from South Carolina, notably did not use the words either “conservative” or “Republican” in describing the plan. Trump eschewed Republican orthodoxy when he promised not to cut back Social Security and Medicare during the campaign— two entitlement programs that most Republicans say must be curtailed in order to balance the budget — and his first fiscal plan outline leaves them untouched.
The spending plan does seek to shrink numerous federal programs. The package would lead to mass layoffs at the Environmental Protection Agency and steep reductions in housing programs. The White House proudly circulated a story that said it was seeking a “historic contraction of the federal workforce.”
“There’s a lot of programs that simply cannot justify their existence, and that’s where we zeroed in,” Mulvaney said, referring specifically to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a top Trump ally on Capitol Hill, said the president was gutting “agencies we think have gone rogue” and “the massive government bureaucracy that never seems to shrink.”
In addition to the budget, Trump has taken other steps to curb the reach of the federal government, including issuing an executive order that for every future executive order that is issued, two must be rescinded. And next week, confirmation hearings will begin for Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, one of whose best-known opinions is about taking away rulemaking authority from the executive branch.
The Trump budget allocates $54 billion more to defense and law enforcement programs than Congress approved this year, a roughly 10 percent increase, while cutting foreign aid as part of a reorientation that Trump has termed “America First.” Trump also asks for a $30 billion supplemental payment for national security and the border in the current year. Mulvaney said funding for the Department of Homeland Security would grow by approximately 6 percent.
The budget also calls for American tax dollars to fund the construction of a wall along the southern border — despite Trump’s repeated campaign claims that Mexico would pay.
“It’s coming out of the Treasury,” Mulvaney said of a $1.5 billion request in the current year.
The document released on Thursday is known as the “skinny budget” and only represents the toplines for departments and agencies. A full budget, including economic and tax projections, will come in May, with the goal for Congress to adopt a plan before the new fiscal year begins at the end of September.