Trump to request 5 percent cut from Cabinet members

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President Trump on Wednesday said he was planning on asking every Cabinet secretary to cut 5 percent from their budgets.

“We’re going to ask every secretary to cut 5 percent for next year,” he said ahead of a Cabinet meeting. 

Trump blamed Democrats for the increase in spending.


“Last year, the first year, I had to do something with the military. The military was falling apart, it was depleted, it was in very bad shape, and that’s why we went for two years, $700 billion, $716 billion,” he said. “I had to give the Democrats, I call it ‘waste money,’ things I would never have approved, but we had to do that in order to get the votes because we don’t have enough Republican votes to do that without them,” he continued.

The bipartisan spending bill included increases of $80 billion in defense spending and $63 billion in nondefense spending for 2018, with an additional $5 billion for each in 2019. For comparison, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the tax law would add $164 billion to the 2018 deficit after economic growth was taken into account.

When asked if the request would apply to the Pentagon, Trump seemed to indicate it would not, saying its budget would likely remain at the same levels he cited earlier.

It was unclear if Trump’s intention was to cut spending for the 2019 fiscal year, which began earlier this month. The president already signed spending bills covering about three-fourths of the total discretionary spending for 2019 into law.

While the president initiates the budgeting process by proposing his own plan, Congress has the power of the purse and is free to accept or ignore the plan. Agencies are obligated to spend funds that Congress appropriates for them.

The comments follow a Treasury Department release showing that the fiscal 2018 budget rose 17 percent to $779 billion in 2018, a rise fueled largely by the GOP tax plan and a bipartisan deal to raise spending.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) laid the blame for deficits at Democratic feet, saying the deficit was “not a Republican problem,” and was mostly due to the mandatory spending that Congress does not have to approve anew each year.

Conservative groups applauded Trump’s suggestion.

“The national debt is the greatest existential threat to the United States today,” said FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon.

“It’s now time for cabinet officials to take the President’s call seriously and identify where cuts will be made. But it’s even more crucial for Congress to also get serious about reining in the reckless government spending that puts America’s future at risk,” he added.

But budget watchers noted that the cut would only amount to half the spending increase agreed in the budget deal, and hardly make a dent in the deficit.

The Peterson Foundation, a budget watchdog, noted that cutting discretionary spending by 5 percent would be around $67 billion, and less than half that amount if the cut did not apply to defense spending. In comparison to a $1 trillion deficit and a $479.2 billion projected interest payment, that reduction would be a drop in the bucket.

–Updated at 10:23 a.m. on October 18

Tags Donald Trump Government spending Mitch McConnell United States federal budget
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