US Congress(WASHINGTON) — President Trump’s first White House budget received a chilly reception from many Republicans on Capitol Hill Thursday, as appropriators and defense hawks questioned the blueprint’s dramatic cuts to domestic spending and foreign aid.
The blueprint, a discretionary spending wishlist for 2018 released by the White House Thursday, calls for a boost in defense spending offset with steep cuts to a variety of programs. The proposal would add $54 billion to the Department of Defense budget and reduce State Department funding.
Notably, it would also cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by $2.6 billion – a 31 percent reduction – and completely eliminate funding for 19 smaller agencies and initiatives, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the United States Institute of Peace.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, an Air Force veteran and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the dramatic cuts to the State Department’s budget and foreign aid are “untenable.”
“It’s cheaper to do foreign aid, it’s cheaper to build, it’s cheaper to have foreign relations in terms of diplomacy, than it is to buy a 2,000 pound atom bomb,” said in an interview with ABC News. “So a lot of the times the State Department doesn’t get the credit for what it does behind the scenes.”
Rep. Peter King, R-New York, a staunch Trump supporter and former House Homeland Security Committee chairman, called the blueprint “dead on arrival” given proposed cuts to homeland security programs – including counter-terrorism funding — to help finance President Trump’s plans to ramp up immigration enforcement and construct a wall on the US-Mexico border.
Some Republicans also expressed concerns with regional budget items.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, joined with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, to condemn the blueprint’s proposed revival of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site.
“As has been stated in the past, Yucca is dead and this reckless proposal will not revive it. Washington needs to understand what Nevada has been saying for years: we will not be the nation’s nuclear waste dump,” Heller said in a statement.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, who is leading Senate Democrats’ campaign committee in 2018, called Trump’s budget a “betrayal” of his voters.
“I think this is going to be a wake-up call to a lot of people who supported Donald Trump that his budget is betraying them and the commitments he made,” Van Hollen said during a press conference.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, a senior member of the appropriations committee who recently led the subcommittee that approved funding for the National Institutes of Health and Corporation for Public Broadcasting, dismissed concerns about domestic cuts in the blueprint.
“It’s always an opening offer to negotiate,” he told ABC’s Mary Bruce. “That’s all a presidential budget is and it doesn’t have the force of law. It’s the president’s opening bid in a bargaining session back and forth.”
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