WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s national spending plan for 2019 arrived on Capitol Hill on Monday with a $4.4 trillion price tag that includes substantial budget increases for the Pentagon and the nuclear weapons complex and deep cuts to the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other non-defense departments.
“The budget reflects our commitment to the safety, prosperity, and security of the American people,” Trump said in the document’s preface. “The more room our economy has to grow, and the more American companies are freed from constricting over-regulation, the stronger and safer we become as a nation.”
The president’s spending request is just that – a request, as appropriations are the responsibility of Congress. Some Democrats, including Sen. Tom Udall – a New Mexican who sits on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee – pronounced it “dead on arrival” and lamented cuts to clean air initiatives, Medicaid and other domestic programs.
“The budget is an assault on struggling families, gutting funding for the very programs that help people grappling with poverty and trying to get ahead,” Udall said. “The Department of Defense may be strengthened in the short term with increased funding, but by mortgaging diplomacy, education and families across the country, we will ultimately sap the strength of the American people, including the military.”
Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said that the budget “is not perfect” but that there is “much to be encouraged by in this request.”
“The White House remains committed to rebuilding our nation’s military and defenses, it continues to prioritize the reduction of burdensome and duplicative regulations, it supports New Mexico’s federal facilities, and it strives to make a real dent in our nation’s ever-growing debts,” Pearce said.
The president’s spending outline for the first time acknowledges that the Republican tax overhaul passed last year would add billions to the deficit and not “pay for itself” as Trump and his Republican allies asserted. If enacted as proposed, though no presidential budget ever is, the plan would establish an era of $1 trillion-plus yearly deficits.
Trump’s $4.4 trillion spending plan for 2019 is about $300 billion higher than his $4.1 trillion request for 2018.
Unlike last year’s submission, the 2019 Trump proposal would cut Medicare by $554 billion over the next 10 years, a 6 percent reduction from projected spending, including cuts in Medicare payments going to hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Trump is requesting a record $686 billion for the Pentagon, a 13 percent increase from the 2017 budget enacted last May. The Environmental Protection Agency budget would be cut by 23 percent, with dozens of programs eliminated under the Trump proposal.
The White House budget would funnel $15.1 billion – or $2 billion more than current year spending – to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the Department of Energy that oversees nuclear weapons work at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico. Nuclear spending has generally increased in both of the past two presidential administrations, but not as much as Trump is proposing.
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry – citing LANL as one example – said Monday that “previous administrations” have neglected the nation’s nuclear complex.
“Our nuke weapons program has been pushed back and pushed back and pushed back for years,” Perry told reporters on a conference call Monday. “They haven’t been able to keep up with the modernization work that needed to occur … for maybe decades. ”
At the Department of the Interior, which manages most of the federal government’s vast landholdings, Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters the budget proposal asks Congress to start a fund of up to $18 billion to help erase a deep backlog of repairs and maintenance to national parks and wildlife refuges. The fund, which would also pay for repairs to the Bureau of Indian Education schools, would be paid for with new energy development leases.
“This budget is all about rebuilding our park system and will use our energy holdings to pay for it,” Zinke said.
The Trump budget would spend $11.7 billion on the Interior Department in 2019, slightly more than the $11.6 billion proposed for fiscal 2018. But the administration’s budget requests less than the current $13.5 billion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.