The Stew Reporting on government and politics

Budget battleground

Politics | President Donald Trump’s spending proposal ushers in the next election cycle
by Harvest Prude
Posted 3/14/19, 05:46 pm

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s preliminary budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year outlines priorities that play to his base but are unlikely to satisfy lawmakers on either side of the aisle.

The 150-page budget, sent to Congress on Monday, gives lawmakers the White House’s spending targets for government agencies and programs. Consistent with the president’s budget proposals from the last two years, Trump continues to prioritize national security, this year asking for a whopping 5 percent boost to military departments.

While hikes to defense spending usually garner bipartisan support, one line item is sure to prove controversial. Despite a government shutdown on the issue already, Trump requested an additional $8.6 billion to fund a 722-mile wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He also asked for more money to deploy troops to reinforce the border. Democrats quickly announced opposition to the request.

“Congress refused to fund his wall, and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement. “The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again.”

Trump’s budget sends a message to voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election that his laser focus on delivering his signature campaign promise isn’t going away.

To offset increases to defense, the administration recommended cuts of $2.7 trillion over 10 years to entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The move would decrease future domestic spending by about 2 percent each year. The proposal also calls on Congress to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a move that proved impossible even when Republicans held both chambers of Congress.

The future of Obamacare will likely come up time and again on the presidential campaign trail. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering running for the Democratic nomination in 2020, lambasted the suggestion at a firefighters conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday: “Trading Medicare and Medicaid for tax breaks—how is that going to help the people in this room or most of the people you live with?”

In the 2018 midterm elections, Trump sought to fire up his base over immigration, while Democrats focused on expanding healthcare coverage. In a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist exit poll during the 2018 midterm elections, 41 percent of voters listed healthcare as their most important issue, compared to about 23 percent who listed immigration as their top concern.

Democrats are already using the proposed healthcare changes to paint Republicans as heartless. In a House Budget Committee hearing Tuesday, Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said the cuts “aren’t a tightening of the belt or a trimming of the fat, or even a serious attempt at reining in spending. … They are extreme to a level that is malicious.”

Acting White House budget director Russell Vought argued at that same hearing that the president was not cutting billions from healthcare. He said that the administration was primarily targeting costs associated Medicare and Medicaid such as prescription drug prices.

Trump made some proposals that could garner a cautious bipartisan embrace, including an initiative spearheaded by his daughter Ivanka that pushes for paid family medical leave and child care. The budget also calls for more funding to address the opioid crisis, HIV, and veterans’ needs. The proposal aims to balance the federal budget by 2034.

The president’s budget received largely positive reviews from conservative groups but with notes of caution. Club for Growth praised it for avoiding “another outrageous and irresponsible budget cap spending deal” but expressed concerns about the deficit levels, which would remain at $1 trillion annually until 2023. “These deficits mirror the deficits President Obama left on the American people,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in a statement.

Heritage Foundation fiscal affairs analyst Justin Bogie told me he also had concerns that Trump was following in the big-spending footsteps of his predecessor: “The debt went up about $10 trillion dollars under President Obama. And it went up about $2 trillion under President Trump within his first two years. He’s on the same kind of pace.”

But Bogie praised the overall proposal, saying, “We’re seeing the same themes—national defense and cutting government waste—a tremendous amount of savings from waste and abuse.”

Now the ball is in Congress’ court. Because the president’s proposal was submitted past the deadline of the first Monday of February, the process, which will surely be contentious and drawn-out, is already behind schedule. The government will shut down again if Congress and the White House cannot agree on a budget before Oct. 1, the start of the 2020 fiscal year.

Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite The U.S. Capitol

This week in Congress

In the House of Representatives

  • On Friday, the House passed the For the People Act of 2019 by a 234-193 vote. The bill would automatically enroll citizens to vote, expand early voting, and overhaul redistricting, campaign finance, and lobbying laws. Without a single Republican co-sponsor and free speech concerns flagged by the American Civil Liberties Union, its passage was largely symbolic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he won’t bring it to the Senate floor.
  • On Tuesday, Democrats introduced the Dream and Promise Act, a bill that would extend legal protection to millions of immigrants brought illegally into the United States as children. It would also allow immigrants who arrive under Temporary Protected Status to become permanent residents.
  • Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday introduced the Equality Act, a bill that would amend existing civil rights laws to make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in public accommodation. In states where such protections exist, religious freedom clashes abound.
  • In an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 420-0, the House on Thursday passed a resolution to make public the final report from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—at least as much of the report as can be legally disclosed. Republicans said the measure won’t change anything because Attorney General William Barr has already promised to do exactly what the resolution calls for. Four Republicans voted “present.”
  • Purportedly in the interest of curbing wastefulness, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., revoked office space in the U.S. Capitol that her predecessor, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., designated for Vice President Mike Pence.

In the Senate

  • The Senate continues to put President Trump’s judicial nominees on the bench. Last Thursday, lawmakers confirmed Eric Murphy of Ohio to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Tuesday, Paul Matey won confirmation to the 3rd Circuit, and Neomi Rao was confirmed to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the District of Columbia Circuit on Wednesday.
  • On Tuesday, Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced The Cradle Act, a bill that would offer paid parental leave in exchange for delayed Social Security benefits.
  • According to a Roll Call survey of U.S. lawmakers’ religious affiliations, a majority identify as Catholic, with the second largest group identifying as Baptist. —H.P.
Associated Press/Photo by Kathy Willens Associated Press/Photo by Kathy Willens Beto O’Rourke

2020 watchlist

Beto O’Rourke, the former U.S. congressman from Texas who narrowly lost a bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in the 2018 midterm elections, announced Thursday he will run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

“This is a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us,” the 46-year-old said in a video announcement light on policy specifics. “The challenges we face right now, the interconnected crisis in our democracy and our climate, have never been greater.”

O’Rourke hopes to topple more than a dozen other candidates to win his party’s nomination in Milwaukee, where Democrats will hold their 2020 national convention, party officials announced this week. Milwaukee bested other cities such as Houston and Miami for the distinction.

In the last presidential election, Hillary Clinton chose not to campaign in Wisconsin after winning her party’s nomination, a decision that came back to haunt her when the reliably blue state narrowly voted for Trump—the first time it chose the Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Republicans plan to hold their convention in Charlotte, N.C.

On Wednesday, Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam launched an exploratory committee for a long-shot presidential campaign. The 44-year-old plans to push a proposal to cancel the more than $1.5 trillion in student debt that Americans hold.

Democrats are still holding their breath for an expected campaign announcement from former Vice President Joe Biden, who leads Democratic contenders in early polling. The 76-year-old former senator has said that he’s 95 percent committed to running, several news outlets reported this week. —H.P.

Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh President Donald Trump (left) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the Capitol steps Thursday, following a lunch with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who is standing behind them

Pelosi nixes impeachment idea

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ruled out impeachment proceedings against President Trump as too divisive despite finding him to be “unfit” for the presidency, according to an interview published in The Washington Post this week.

“I’m not for impeachment,” she said. “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”

Some Democratic activists and far-left lawmakers have called for the president’s impeachment, but Pelosi noted such a move could rally Republican voters to the president ahead of the 2020 election.

Trump said he appreciated Pelosi’s views and stressed that “everyone must remember the minor fact that I never did anything wrong.”

“How do you impeach a man who is considered by many to be the President with the most successful first two years in history, especially when he has done nothing wrong and impeachment is for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’?” he wrote in a series of tweets.

Pelosi emphasized that despite her hesitancy on impeachment, she views Trump as “ethically unfit. Intellectually unfit. Curiosity-wise unfit. No, I don’t think he’s fit to be president of the United States.” —Anne K. Walters

Associated Press/Photos by Seth Wenig Associated Press/Photos by Seth Wenig New York Attorney General Letitia James

New York vs. Trump

President Trump blasted “presidential harassers” in the New York state government Tuesday amid reports that the state’s attorney general opened an investigation into the financing of his business deals.

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for records related to projects by the Trump Organization, people familiar with the subpoenas told The New York Times.

The probe is reportedly seeking loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit, and other documents about properties the organization owns across the country. Longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen recently told Congress that Trump lied about his financial assets to secure loans for real estate deals.

“New York State and its Governor, Andrew Cuomo, are now proud members of the group of PRESIDENTIAL HARASSERS,” Trump tweeted. “No wonder people are fleeing the State in record numbers. The Witch Hunt continues!” —A.K.W.

Harvest Prude

Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Sat, 03/16/2019 02:36 am

    SOOOOOO tempting to quit reading the news and just go find a nice cave deep in the woods. 

    Posted: Sat, 03/16/2019 08:42 pm

    Good one. Made me laugh out loud. 

    Last night my family had abc on. I kept saying "isn't there another channel to watch the news." The bias is VERY obvious. Why can't they just state the facts, and not the "facts" as they interpret them. I guess there are a lot of people who want to hear fake news.