On the same day President Trump said he wants to make the federal government “do more with less,” his administration reportedly outlined a draft budget that envisions possible cuts to foreign aid and domestic agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in order to fund a $54 billion increase in defense spending.
Meanwhile, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) on Monday accused his Democratic counterparts of delaying confirmation votes on Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) to lead the Department of Interior (DOI) and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy (DOE).
Officials with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) told reporters in a conference call Monday that a “first draft” of the federal budget was being shared with Congress in order to prepare lawmakers for a formal budget request to be submitted in March, according to multiple reports.
Although OMB officials did not disclose specific details of the budget, media reports said the Trump administration appears to be leaving entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, alone. That could mean large cuts to domestic agencies — including the DOI, the EPA and the Department of State (DOS) which includes foreign aid — are looming.
According to reports, Myron Ebell, who served previously as part of the Trump transition team, said EPA staff could be cut by as much as two-thirds. Meanwhile, an unnamed White House budget official reportedly said the DOS budget could be cut by as much as 30%.
In public comments, Trump said his priorities would be to increase spending on issues related to national security matters, including the military, law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, which manages the Border Patrol.
“My first budget will be submitted to the Congress next month,” Trump told attendees of a meeting of the National Governors Association at the White House on Monday. “It will include an historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it. This defense spending increase will be offset and paid for by finding greater savings and efficiencies across the federal government…
“We’re going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people. We can do so much more with the money we spend.”
Trump later stated that despite spending $6 trillion in the Middle East, “we have potholes all over our highways and our roads…So we’re going to take care of that. Infrastructure: we’re going to start spending on infrastructure big.”
Speaking from the Senate floor on Monday, Barrasso accused Democrats of deliberately trying to stall the votes on Zinke and Perry, pointing out that at this time in his presidency, Barack Obama had many more appointments approved by lawmakers. He urged the chamber to move forward on votes for both nominees, adding that both men would serve with distinction in leading their respective departments.
According to reports, the Senate will hold a roll call vote to confirm Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce at 7 p.m. Monday. That vote will immediately be followed by a roll call vote on a motion to invoke cloture over Zinke’s nomination. Senate records show cloture motions have already been filed over the nominations of Zinke, Perry, Ross and Ben Carson, Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Last month, the nominations of both Zinke and Perry passed the muster of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Zinke was approved on a 16-6 vote, while Perry’s vote was 16-7.
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