Dems see political gold in Trump budget

Dems see political gold in Trump budget
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are hoping President Trump’s newly proposed budget blueprint will be a political albatross for Republicans at the polls next year.

Unveiled Tuesday, Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal pushes sharp increases in military spending, steep across-the-board cuts to nondefense domestic programs and huge tax breaks for businesses and wealthy Americans — all ideas hailed by conservatives on and off of Capitol Hill. 

But many of the programs slashed or eliminated by Trump’s proposal disproportionately benefit low- and middle-income families — many of whom supported Trump at the polls last November — and the Democrats wasted little time on Tuesday vowing to hang the president’s budget around the necks of Republicans who defend the plan. 

“President Trump made a lot of promises to families across the country that supported him. This budget turns his back on all of the promises,” said Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), head of the Democrats’ campaign arm. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“They’re in charge, they own it.” 

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, singled out several cuts he deemed particularly devastating, including sharp reductions in funding for Medicaid, Meals on Wheels and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

“This president ran on the notion that he was going to help restore middle America, he was going to bring back jobs, that he was going to make America great again. He spoke to middle class and struggling people in this country, and in this budget … he directly attacks them,” Crowley said, speaking from the Democrats’ campaign headquarters near the Capitol. 

“Eliminating programs across the board on the domestic side is unconscionable. And we’re going to highlight that.”

The Democrats have, for years, attacked the Republicans’ budget proposals as giveaways for the wealthy at the expense of the poor and working class. That was true of the budget proposals of former Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.), who’s now the Speaker; former Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), who now heads the administration’s Health and Human Services Department; and now Trump himself.

The Democrats’ message, however, has not resounded with voters, who gave Republicans control of the House in 2010 and have kept them there in the three cycles since then. 

The Democrats contend there’s a big difference this time around: The Republicans, they note, also control the White House this year.

“Republicans are in charge now,” Lujan said. “No more excuses from them.”

Dubbed “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget for fiscal 2018 features a $54 billion increase in military spending and $2.6 billion to bolster border security — including $1.6 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall. To offset those hikes — and the loss of revenue accompanying promised tax cuts — the plan slashes funding for a long list of domestic programs designed to help poor families, including cuts of $1.4 trillion to Medicaid and $192 billion to food stamps.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, defended the plan on Tuesday, saying it’s largely designed to protect the taxpayers who underwrite those programs.

“Yes, you have to have compassion for folks who are receiving the federal funds, but also you have to have compassion for the folks who are paying it,” Mulvaney told reporters at the White House. “And that is one of the things that is new about this president's budget.”

Ryan also praised Trump’s plan, saying it will promote economic growth. 

“We finally have a president who's willing to actually even balance the budget,” Ryan told reporters in the Capitol. 

“Clearly, Congress will take that budget and then work on our own budget, which is the case every single year. But at least we now have common objectives.”

The Democrats have other ideas. They’re quick to point out that Trump’s claim of eliminating deficits over a decade relies on a rosy prediction of 3 percent annual economic growth over that span — a figure that most economists deem unattainable. 

Like other White House budgets before it, Trump’s 2018 plan is not expected to be taken up in its entirety, let alone passed through Congress. But Democrats think the proposal alone will put the Republicans in the difficult spot of backing the decimation of popular programs, paying political dividends to the Democrats in 2018. 

“They have suggested … cuts which are indefensible,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democratic whip, said during a press briefing in the Capitol. 

“Will that be helpful to us politically? I think that probably is the case.”