The budget plan President Donald Trump sent to Congress on Monday reflects the messaging themes that are the early pillars of his re-election campaign.
The $4.7 trillion spending proposal includes increases for things the president uses to fire up his supporters, including a sizable military budget boost and $8.6 billion for his U.S.-Mexico border barrier that could trigger a new government shutdown fight in late September. It also calls for $2.8 trillion in cuts to non-Pentagon programs.
Line by line and department by department, the budget blueprint’s most high-profile sections offer red meat for Trump’s base and conjure red faces from congressional Democrats. Both sides are sure to turn its contents into early 2020 campaign-trail themes.
Trump’s plan assumes high rates of economic growth, massive nondefense spending cuts and raising about $60 billion over 10 years through new and expanded fees, most of which have been rejected by Congress in the past.
The president often talks and tweets about how his administration secured $716 billion in fiscal 2019 and is “rebuilding” a military he asserts had atrophied under the Obama administration.
“The fact is, when I took over as President, our Country was a mess,” including a “Depleted Military,” he tweeted on Feb. 10.
Expect those lines to stay in his 2020 stump remarks and future tweets. His new plan seeks $750 billion for the military, and lawmakers from both parties have ample political incentives to support such a spending hike.
The same goes for the $8.6 billion border wall request, even if Democrats again object and offer up much less than the fiscal 2019 spending agreement.
“By the way, you know I’m building the wall. We’re finishing the wall,” Trump said during his two-hour appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 2. “We’ve got a lot of money.”
The crowd reacted with applause before breaking out in a now-familiar chant: “Build that wall! Build that wall!”
Trump was asked about the $8.6 billion border wall request as he returned to the White House on Sunday evening after a weekend of golf and fundraisers at his South Florida resort. He did not respond.
But a senior administration official the following day said the $8.6 billion figure would be enough “for completion of the wall.” That echoes an early Trump 2020 campaign theme of “finish the wall,” which was printed in white capital block letters on bright red signs at his most recent campaign rally in Texas. But Democratic lawmakers and immigration experts say there has been no construction of new barriers, just work to replace pre-Trump border fencing.
Even before the fiscal 2020 request had been formally released, Democratic presidential candidates pounced.
“The Trump budget is breathtaking in its degree of cruelty and filled with broken promises,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement, criticizing Trump for floating cuts to domestic programs such as Social Security and Medicare that he as a 2016 candidate promised to protect.
“Make no mistake about it: Trump’s budget is a massive transfer of wealth from working class families to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America,” the Vermont independent added, using the budget request to hit on the 2016 themes from his previous White House campaign that helped him become a thorn in Hillary Clinton’s side.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described the plan as laying out a “clear roadmap for a more fiscally responsible future, if Congress chooses to follow it.”
But budget experts issued chilly evaluations.
“President Trump’s budget aims to reverse an unsustainable fiscal situation and put debt on a downward path relative to the economy,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
“Unfortunately, as in previous years, he relies on far too many accounting gimmicks and fantasy assumptions and puts forward far too few actual solutions.”