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Trump got harsher GOP reception than Bush on budget

Trump got harsher GOP reception than Bush on budget
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Boehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (R-Ky.) has downplayed the cold response among Republicans to President Trump’s budget as nothing unusual, but a review of the historical record shows that former President George W. Bush’s early budgets received a much warmer reception from GOP lawmakers.

Even though the Trump budget proposal would increase defense spending, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainHouse Freedom Caucus chair weighs Arizona Senate bid Cindy McCain planning 'intimate memoir' of life with John McCain Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors MORE (R-Ariz.) declared it “dead on arrival.”

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief FBI director faces lawmaker frustration over Capitol breach Juan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP MORE (R-S.C.) said it “doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing.”

Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.), the Senate’s most vulnerable Republican incumbent, bashed it as “anti-Nevada” and Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden's unity effort falters Capito asks White House to allow toxic chemicals rule to proceed MORE (R-W.Va.) said it “cuts too close to the bone.”

McConnell in a press conference this week didn’t use the same colorful language as some of his colleagues, but he gave it a very tepid review.

“We’ll be taking into account what the president has recommended, but it will not be determinative in every respect,” he said.

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When a reporter observed that his comment didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, McConnell shot back, “Well, I didn’t engage in a ringing endorsement of President Bush’s budgets either.”

However, a review of press reports about former President Bush's budget proposals and interviews with Republicans reveals Bush's first spending blueprints received a much warmer reception than Trump's. 

Bill Hoagland, who served as Republican staff director of the Senate Budget Committee in 2001 and 2002, said Bush’s budgets were much more in line with the values and priorities of GOP lawmakers.

“It was a different time for Republicans in the Bush years and even the Ronald Reagan years, with their budgets. The principles in those budgets were much more acceptable — the principles of efficiency and limitation and targeting of federal expenditures,” he said. “I think those principles were embraced.”

He points out, however, that Bush was in a better fiscal position at the start of his first term, when the country had a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion over the following decade.

The Congressional Budget Office in January projected a deficit of $559 billion in 2017 and a cumulative deficit of $9.4 trillion from 2018 to 2027.

In 2001, Bush said he would triple federal funding for reading programs, add $25 billion for poor children in Medicaid and increase funding on nutrition programs for women and children by $94 billion.

Trump’s budget, by contrast, calls for cutting Medicaid by estimates ranging from $610 billion to $1.4 trillion. It also proposes cutting $193 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over the next decade and $22 billion from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grants.

Bush also proposed funding increases for scientific research, including a $2.75 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health in 2001 and a $28 million to $50 million increase for the Office of Research on Women’s Health.

Trump’s budget would cut $5.8 billion or 18 percent from the National Institutes of Health, $1.32 billion or 17 percent from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $776 million or 11 percent from the National Science Foundation.

Hoagland said Republicans are having a much tougher time embracing Trump’s budget because it’s much harsher than those of his GOP predecessors.

“Republicans are having trouble embracing the principle that you have to really reduce significantly spending in the safety-net programs,” he added. “It’s a fundamental change in governance here.”

McCain shared a similar sentiment, saying that the cuts to certain programs effect Republican constituencies.

“There’s a constituency here for entitlement programs. There’s a constituency here for a lot of our aid programs and foreign assistance,” McCain said.

Cuts to those programs tend “to anger a number of constituencies,” he added.

Trump’s budget is calling on GOP lawmakers to make much tougher choices than were ever required by Bush’s budgets.

In the spring of 2001, Bush set what at the time was the ambitious goal of limiting the growth of domestic spending to 4 percent.

Sixteen years later Trump is calling on Republicans to cut domestic nondefense, non-homeland security spending by about 10 percent or about $54 to $57 billion, according to various estimates.

As soon as Trump’s budget emerged, Republicans quickly pointed out that President Obama’s budgets received scant support, even among Democrats, on Capitol Hill.

Obama’s budget lost by a vote of 98 to 1 when Republicans forced a vote on it in March of 2015. His budget plans in 2011 and 2012 lost by votes of 97 to 0 and 99 to 0, respectively.

But while Democrats didn’t want to cast meaningless political votes for the budgets proposed by a president who saw his political standing plummet after the Tea Party revolution of 2010 and whose unpopularity cost his party the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections, they didn’t recoil as dramatically from Obama’s proposals as many Republicans did this past week from Trump’s budget.