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Washington Examiner: Trump Budget Cuts May Be Tough Sell In Congress

January 28, 2017
News Stories
Washington Examiner - Susan Ferrechio
In just a few weeks, President Trump is expected to send Congress a federal budget that many expect will propose significant cuts to non-military spending.
It will likely be the kind of proposal the GOP majorities in both the House and Senate have long embraced in theory but have had a harder time accepting in practice because it would require ending programs some of them support.
"There are always big spending Republicans," Rep. Darryl Issa, R-Calif., told the Washington Examiner. "It's not new."
The Trump budget will be influenced by a plan authored last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which proposes a 1.7 percent reduction in spending.
While it doesn't sound like a big cut, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is otherwise projecting nearly 5 percent annual growth in federal spending.
According to reports, Trump's proposal would cut federal spending by $10.5 trillion over a decade.
Heritage recommends dozens of cuts to each federal agency, such as an end to federal subsidies for retiree health benefits for new hires, and eliminating five programs from the Department of Commerce, including the Minority Business Development Agency.
It also calls for stopping all federal grants to airports and eliminating "wasteful subsidies" to the Essential Air Service program that serves rural areas.
House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., bristled at the idea of cutting federal airport money.
"I think there will be some pushback," Shuster told the Washington Examiner. "Those are areas, if they don't have essential air service, they'll be cut off, especially in the West and Midwest. There are a lot of Republicans from those areas."
Shuster acknowledged "there are a lot of things around here that can be cut," but said Trump should look to other agencies, such as Commerce, or Housing and Urban Development.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and knows how hard it is to cut federal programs.
Cole said Republicans, along with President Obama, spent the past five years cutting spending thanks to the federal budget caps passed in 2011. Cole said the federal budget has saved a $1 trillion in spending.
"It's going to be more difficult on the discretionary side than the administration expects because we've been working on cutting those programs for five years," Cole told the Washington Examiner. "This is not a new idea."
Cole and other Republicans who were asked about looming federal budget cuts said the Trump administration is wasting time on discretionary reductions. Instead, they argued, he should focus on reforming entitlements, which are the major drivers of federal spending growth.
Trump, however, has repeatedly pledged he will not change Social Security or Medicare.
"In the long run if you want to balance the federal budget you've got to deal with entitlement reform," Cole said. "There is no way around it."
Trump, Cole said, "Doesn't have to talk about it yet, but the numbers will force everybody there sooner or later."
In the meantime, Republicans will have to grapple with a GOP president who proposes slashing potentially popular federal programs.
Many of the cuts were included in a budget authored by the conservative Republican Study Committee, a faction that includes most House Republicans. The RSC budget has won past House GOP approval in a floor vote, but this time around, the cuts would be real because a Republican president would sign them into law.
"It's time to put up or shut up," Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., said. "People have spoken about this for many, many years. Now we'll see."