Imagine this scene: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and acting OMB Director Russ Vought working together to assemble President Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget request. The red pen comes out, slashing domestic spending. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins to gut the international affairs functions of his own department. Senior adviser Stephen Miller injects anti-immigrant policies for good measure.
What would this nightmarish budget request look like?
Probably a lot like the actual proposal released by the White House on Monday: a declaration of war on hardworking Americans, littered with misplaced priorities and callous cuts unsuccessfully pursued in past requests. At a time when many working families face challenges like stagnant wages and rising health care costs and struggle to get ahead under this administration, the president’s budget request would take our country in the wrong direction.
Last year, the Appropriations Committee that I lead worked with our colleagues in Congress and the president to enact a bipartisan budget agreement that raised unworkable budget caps for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. These higher discretionary spending levels made it possible for Congress to responsibly fund the federal government and provide greater investments in the needs and priorities of American families and communities.
Instead of adhering to this bipartisan spending framework, which President Trump himself signed into law, the president’s budget request backtracks on the agreed-to funding levels.
Indeed, by proposing only $590 billion in nondefense discretionary spending for fiscal year 2021, the president’s request cuts $44.5 billion, or 7 percent, from the level in the bipartisan budget agreement. When you consider agreed-upon offsets, the president’s proposed cut for nondefense funding is even larger – $50.7 billion, or 7.8 percent, from the agreement.
While cutting nondefense funding substantially below its agreed to level, the president’s request would gut investments in critical domestic priorities. The request imposes a $6.2 billion, or 8.5 percent, cut to Department of Education resources, with the complete elimination of funding for afterschool programs.
It cuts lifesaving medical research programs at the National Institutes of Health by $3.3 billion, and reduces funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by $678 million. It eliminates the Community Development Block Grant, making it harder for local governments to address needs like safe housing, economic opportunities, and public facility improvements. The list goes on.
Equally perverse is how the president’s budget request doubles down on dangerous and divisive partisan demands that have come to define his administration. For instance, rather than prioritize policies to strengthen our national security and protect our values, the president continues to fixate on his wasteful border wall, requesting $2 billion from American taxpayers – not Mexico as he promised – to advance this perennial campaign pledge. Once again, the president is more concerned about scoring political points than about our shared security and prosperity.
The failures of President Trump’s latest budget request are even more glaring in light of the bipartisan agreement funding the federal government for the current fiscal year.
Enacted into law less than two months ago, the agreement – consisting of all 12 fiscal year 2020 funding bills – makes up for years of lost ground. House Democrats prevailed in securing historic investments in Head Start and record funding for NIH research, and in increasing investments in national priorities like the 2020 Census and election security. And, for the first time in more than 20 years, we appropriated funding for gun violence prevention research.
The president could have used his budget request to build on this progress, avoiding divisive policy proposals and spending cuts in favor of laying out a realistic vision for the upcoming fiscal year. It’s unfortunate he went the opposite route, whittling away investments that strengthen our nation and give every person a better chance at a better life.
With such misguided and destructive cuts, which Congress has already repeatedly rejected, the president’s request has no chance of garnering the necessary bipartisan support to become law. It’s telling that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) – who carried President Trump’s water through a sham impeachment trial – has already panned the proposal.
Still, it’s a troubling reminder of the disdain this administration has for hardworking Americans.
No matter how hard the Trump administration presses on the president’s budget request, I am determined that the House will lead an orderly appropriations process for the coming year – one that achieves bipartisan, full-year appropriations bills that responsibly fund the government and invest in critical priorities. The American people deserve nothing less.
Nita M. Lowey represents New York’s 17th District and is chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.