When the House and Senate reach an agreement on a Budget resolution, Congress will set discretionary spending levels, and the 12 Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate will work to finalize their different bills. Upon committee completion, these bills will be brought to the floor for a vote and then, if passed, sent to the President for a signature.
Budgets provide great insight into the priorities of an administration and this year is no different. It is clear that the Trump Administration sees this Budget plan as a follow-up step to the massive tax bill passed by Congress last fall. Below are some of the main priorities the Trump Administration outlined in this week’s Budget proposal.
Military & National Security
One of the focal points of the Administration’s Budget is increased funding for military and cybersecurity. The Budget plan calls for an increase of $716 billion in military funding that would be used to increase the size of the military – by approximately 16,400 service members – and updated technology and weaponry. $24 billion of these funds would go towards modernizing the country’s nuclear defense system and the purchase of additional defense missiles to fend off threats from countries such as North Korea. And $8 billion would be allocated towards continued investment in improving the nation’s cybersecurity. According to the Administration, “the Budget promotes peace through strength, and continues multiyear investments to develop a lethal, agile, and resilient force.”
Immigration Reform & Border Security
In addition to the increased military funding, the Administration also hopes to increase the investment in border security. The Budget plan requests $18 billion for a border wall, and an additional $1.6 billion for the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to “gain operational control over the Southwest border.” The Administration also requests $211 million dollars in 2019 to increase the number of border patrol agents by 750. The Budget calls for $28.2 billion for the agencies that have the responsibility for carrying out immigration programs. $571 million is requested to hire and train 2,000 new ICE Agents which “directly supports the President’s order for ICE to arrest all undocumented immigrants it encounters.” An additional $2.5 billion is requested for ICE to help with the arrest, deportation, and detention of undocumented immigrants. Funds are also included in the Budget proposal to expand the implementation of E-Verify. President Trump has deemed keeping America safe as his top priority and the Budget demonstrates that increased border security and additional enforcement is one of the main investments to accomplish this objective.
On immigration, the Budget aims to reform the country’s current immigration system by “ending family chain migration and the diversity visa lottery and replacing them with a merit-based regime that selects immigrants based on their skills, likelihood to assimilate, and ability to contribute to the economy.” The Budget language states that the hope of the President is to implement an approach similar to that of Canada and Australia. Keeping with previous statements of the Administration, the Budget intends to enact the President’s priority of decreasing legal immigration into the country. The Senate is currently debating the issue of immigration and it remains to be seen which proposals outlined in the Budget will be included in a Senate immigration bill.
Passing a large infrastructure package is another one of the main goals of the Trump Administration this year. The Administration intends to generate $1 trillion in combined infrastructure investment between federal dollars and private investment. To assist with these efforts, the Administration has requested in the Budget outline $200 billion in infrastructure investment. The dollars requested by the Administration aim to improve infrastructure by encouraging innovation, boosting rural areas, and offering incentive grants to encourage additional investment from States. It remains to be seen how the Administration intends to obtain the additional $800 billion of investment from the private sector.
The Administration hopes to use the 2019 Budget plan to enhance its efforts in combating the opioid epidemic. The Budget requests $5 billion in new resources for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fight the epidemic, including $1 billion for 2019. This Budget request includes a media campaign, funding for States to respond to the crisis, and improving first responder access to over-dose related drugs. The Budget also requests over $100 million in funding for both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to combat the epidemic.
Also included in the Administration’s Budget plan are reforms to many of the country’s welfare programs. The common theme among the proposed reforms is ensuring that anyone who is “able-bodied” is working or on a pathway to work. In a move to reduce food stamps, President Trump has proposed implementing a “food box” delivery program where people receive a box of food each week as opposed to receiving money to purchase their own food. NBC News reports that this would be similar to meal delivery programs such as Blue Apron. The Budget also “offers States the opportunity to propose Welfare to Work Projects.” Earlier this year, Kentucky became one of the first states to implement one of these programs by issuing a work requirement for Medicaid recipients.
Reducing the prices of prescription drugs is noted as another one of the main priorities for the Administration in the Budget plan. In addition to cutting regulations to bring drugs to market faster, the Budget proposes strategies to reform the incentive system used to encourage new drug development and policies to increase competition. The Administration states, it hopes to apply some of the private sector practices to get a “better deal” for American patients.
In the end, Congress will likely include elements of President Trump’s Budget but will also disregard funding levels for many programs. There is already opposition to the President Trump’s Budget plan from both the Democrats and more conservative Republicans in Congress. Democrats disagree with many of the President’s priorities such as a border wall and cuts to welfare programs; Conservative Republicans are opposed to the high level of spending proposed by the President and the amount that this Budget would add to the national debt. In recent years, Congress has not always been successful in passing a full fiscal year Budget. With midterm elections rapidly approaching, it remains to be seen if Congress will be able to do so this year.