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President Trump unveiled a budget blueprint, his vision for how he wants the federal government to spend its money. While Congress is certain to make substantial changes to the proposal, the White House wish list does offer a window into the president's priorities. That includes more money for defense and border security and less money for just about everything else. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Budget director Mick Mulvaney says the spending blueprint the White House issued today is an effort to turn Trump's America first campaign rhetoric into hard numbers. It calls for a $54 billion increase next year in military spending. Mulvaney says that would be partially offset by an $11 billion cut at the State Department, with much of that coming out of foreign aid and U.N. peacekeeping.
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MICK MULVANEY: There is no question this is a hard power budget. It is not soft power budget. The president very clearly wants to send a message to our allies and our potential adversaries that this is a strong power administration.
HORSLEY: Critics call the proposed cutbacks shortsighted. Liz Schrayer, who leads the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, has enlisted dozens of retired generals and admirals to make the case for continued diplomacy and development.
LIZ SCHRAYER: Military leaders frankly across the country will say hard power alone will not keep America safe.
HORSLEY: Here at home, the president's plan calls for somewhat increased spending on Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, including $2.6 billion next year for work on Trump's border wall. Just about every other federal department would see a cut - 13 percent less money for Housing and Urban Development, 16 percent less for Health and Human Services and 21 percent less for the Department of Agriculture. Sharon Parrott of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the president's plan would push domestic discretionary spending to its lowest level in decades.
SHARON PARROTT: Interestingly, many of the cuts would really affect in a very negative way some of the very people and communities that the Trump administration has said are a priority - workers left out by today's economy and distressed urban and rural communities that the president has talked about quite a lot.
HORSLEY: The deepest cut proportionally would come at the Environmental Protection Agency, where Trump wants to slash spending by 31 percent. His plan would eliminate federal money for Great Lakes restoration and cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. It would also end the EPA's effort to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and all the agency's climate research.
ANGELA ANDERSON: This is a real head-in-the-sand kind of budget.
HORSLEY: Angela Anderson directs the climate and energy program for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
ANDERSON: If the government decides to stop doing research on climate change, that doesn't change the fact that we are moving inexorably towards a future that is warmer temperatures, more erratic weather patterns. So we can pretend that doesn't exist, but it's pretty penny wise and pound foolish.
HORSLEY: Ultimately it's Congress that controls the federal checkbook, so the White House blueprint is really just a statement of principles. Veteran budget watcher Stan Collender of Qorvis Communications notes the president's plan doesn't even address tax revenues or the big safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare.
STAN COLLENDER: Calling it a budget is giving it more credit than it's due. This is nothing more than a press release coming from the White House masquerading as a government document.
HORSLEY: Congressional Democrats were predictably quick to criticize Trump's spending priorities, but Collender says the proposed cutbacks are also getting a chilly reception from members of the president's own party.
COLLENDER: Some of the biggest opposition to the Trump plan that was released today has come from Republicans. I mean keep in mind that a lot of what was in the Trump plan today are things that have survived multiple rounds of budget cutting over the last decade or so. And if they've survived this long, they're almost certainly very politically popular on Capitol Hill.
HORSLEY: That includes programs like the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps to supports NPR member stations. Trump's plan calls for eliminating all of those. Collender says lawmakers are more likely to increase domestic spending along with the military budget and put any additional cost on the government's credit card. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.
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