Trump budget meets resistance on Capitol Hill due to cuts of rural, medical programs

A far-reaching budget proposal unveiled last week by the White House, one which includes deep cuts to federal art, education, environmental and foreign aid programs, while increasing military spending, has been met with skepticism from members of both sides of the aisle in Congress.

“I am very concerned that deep cuts to our diplomacy will hurt efforts to combat terrorism, distribute critical humanitarian aid, and promote opportunities for American workers,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said on Thursday.

Although some of the cuts to or complete elimination of subsidies include those for well-known programs, most are are not.  Programs on the White House chopping block include: Community development block grants; Weatherization Assistance Program; Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program; National Endowment for the Arts; Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS); McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program; Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program; Inter-American Foundation.

Under President Trump’s first budget proposal, the federal agency facing the deepest cuts is the EPA, which many on Capitol Hill and in the White House have long viewed as an example of government regulation run amok.  The EPA would see more than 50 programs eliminated, saving over $700 million.

Similarly, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is facing losses of over 20 percent of its budget, approximately $5.8 billion — a particularly unpopular proposal.

“I think it’s unwise to be taking those kinds of cuts in the NIH at this stage of the game,” said Steve Womack (R-Alaska).

Expecting discord from members of both White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney explained:

“We’re always dealing with special interests from back home, we’re always dealing with lobbyists back home. The president is dealing with none of that. (President Trump) certainly didn’t focus on how these programs might impact a certain congressional district.”

Despite the administration’s ambitious agenda, all of which the White House says is part of cutting government waste, Oklahoma GOP Congressman Frank Lucas summed up congressional attitudes:

“I’ve been here 22 years. I’ve seen a whole bunch of presidential budgets submitted.  It’s still the House and Senate Budget committees that decide, and ultimately, it’s the Appropriations Committee and whatever happens in the fall that decides.”

The president’s budget, ironically titled, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” also cuts vital programs that help citizens in areas like northeast Mississippi, eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, southeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania, where Trump received overwhelming support.

Specifically, the White House plan reduces funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission and U.S. Economic Development Administration by $340 million. Of 420 counties in which ARC operates, 400 voted for Trump over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in November.

According to ARC, 650 localized projects have been run in the 13-state region between 2011 and 2015, helping educate young people and retrain a workforce with 21st century skills, as well as subsidize start-up businesses and invest in vital infrastructure.

“It’s true that the president won his election in rural country,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). “I would really like to see him climb aboard the ARC vehicle as a way to help us help ourselves.”

 

[Politico] [USA Today] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy WSAZ]