Peter Urban / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Congress (Peter Urban / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget proposal landed Monday in Congress with a thud as Democrats declared “dead on arrival” his call for significant cuts to entitlement programs while seeking $8.6 billion to build a wall along the border with Mexico.

“This budget request is dead on arrival. Budgets reflect priorities, and President Trump’s priority is clearly catering to his base ahead of his re-election campaign. He includes massive cuts to programs Connecticut families rely on to pay for his tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and a ridiculous amount of money for his border wall that no one wants,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said.

The proposed $4.7 billion “Budget for a Better America” provides significant spending increases for the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security while calling for substantial reductions – including an $845 billion cut to Medicare – as well as significant reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation. It also seeks $241 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next decade.

Murphy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, echoed comments released in a joint statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer regarding Trump’s budget proposal.

“President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall, which he promised would be paid for by Mexico. Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government,” Pelosi and Schumer said.“The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson.”

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson was critical of the cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

“Social Security and Medicare aren’t entitlements. They are the insurance that American people pay for. These cuts are attacks on working Americans to pay for tax cuts for our nation’s wealthiest that added $2 trillion to the debt,” Larson said.  “Additionally, it continues the pattern of staffing cuts at the Social Security Administration. Having fewer trained employees available to assist the public when we are already dealing with backlogs and excessive waiting times is keeping Americans from their earned benefits.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal slammed Trump’s call for additional spending on a border wall as a “vanity project” that “neither military leadership nor Customs and Border Patrol classify as an emergency.” He also claimed the budget puts the priority on corporate profits over middle-class families and the working poor.

“Yet again, the Trump Administration has failed to recognize that keeping Americans safe means investing in health care and helicopters, safety net programs and submarines. The President claims to care about defending our national security, so then where is funding for education programs, scientific research, and job training?” he said. “This request is nothing more than a smoke-and-mirrors scam that uses a budget gimmick to stifle strategic spending in favor of a national defense slush-fund.”

The $750 billion proposed budget for national defense represents a 4.9 percent increase that would provide additional spending on weapons systems as well as a 3.1 percent pay increase for troops.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, who chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, had some kind words for Trump’s request to fund three Virginia-class submarines in the Fiscal 2020 budget rather than two as were requested in his 2019 budget.

“Today’s announcement is a welcome reversal from the Department of Defense which, just eight months ago, publicly opposed my efforts to increase fast attack submarine construction to three per year,” said Courtney, whose district includes submarine contractor Electric Boat.

Having the administration on board with a three rather than two submarine build removes a major hurdle in Courtney’s ongoing effort to fund additional submarine purchases in the defense budget.

“Demand to grow our own submarine fleet was confirmed in the 2016 Force Structure Assessment which stated, following rigorous evaluation, that the Navy’s requirement for attack submarines would grow from 48 to 66 – the largest increase of any ship type. Yet, at the same time, this portion of our fleet will face the deepest and most prolonged shortfall from its requirement for the next three decades,” Courtney said. “I am proud that the Seapower subcommittee has responded to these demands over the last two years by providing DOD with multiyear procurement authority to increase submarine production to as high as three per year and authorizing funds to do the same.”

Trump’s overall budget proposal faces an uphill climb in Congress where Democrats now hold a majority in the House and have shown no signs of a willingness to accept significant cuts to domestic spending.

“It is disheartening to see a budget that would dismantle so many programs that people rely on every day. It would be a cold day in hell before I helped pass a budget like this—one that hurts the American people in order to lavish tax cuts on millionaires, billionaires, corporations, and special interests. Instead, Democrats will continue fighting for working people, the middle class, and the most vulnerable,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

DeLauro, who chairs the Appropriation’s subcommittee overseeing the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, said the $21 billion in proposed cuts to those agencies would “crush critical programs that serve working people and middle-class families.”

“This is not hyperbole. President Trump actually wants to cut Medicare, Medicaid, home energy assistance for seniors and people with disabilities, groundbreaking medical research, tools that help local communities fight poverty, job training programs, funding to enforce our trade agreements, pre-school grants, teen pregnancy prevention programs, anti-hunger programs like SNAP, afterschool programs, Pell Grants, federal work study programs, and much more,” she said.

Also on the chopping block, she said, would be the $3.7 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that many families rely on in Connecticut to stay warm in the winter.

Trump may also face some blowback from deficit hawks. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget issued a statement critical of the budget saying it would likely require $10.5 trillion in borrowing over the next decade based on reasonable economic assumptions.

“President Trump has already signed into law debt-financed tax cuts and spending increases that will add $2.3 trillion to the debt over the next decade, despite budgets that proposed revenue-neutral tax reform and spending reductions. This budget does nothing to address or pay for these expanded deficits – in fact, it assumes the tax cuts are extended without even recognizing the cost,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the committee. “Perhaps most disappointing is the decision to continue and expand recent defense increases by funding almost $100 billion in new spending through an off-book emergency war account.”

Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a column for Fox News that the budget proposal would balance the budget in 15 years and reduce deficits by over $2.7 trillion over 10 years.

“The president’s budget was written with the everyday American taxpayer in mind. All across the country, hardworking taxpayers have to balance their household budgets, finding ways to do more with less and save for the future. Our federal agencies and departments should be held to the same level of responsibility and accountability,” he wrote. “Throughout the process of creating this budget, the administration identified a number of wasteful, duplicative, and ineffective programs that should not be funded by your tax dollars.”

A copy of the budget can be found here.