February 13, 2018 08:11
U.S. President Donald Trump is sending a $4 trillion-plus budget request to Congress that includes money for a southern border wall and building up the military, but is projected to increase the federal deficit by more than $1 trillion.
The plan does not include another $400 billion in stopgap spending over two years that was approved by Congress and signed by the president last Friday, in a deal that ended a brief government shutdown.
The budget request is being unveiled along with an infrastructure initiative designed to rebuild what a White House fact sheet calls the nation's "crumbling infrastructure." The plan envisions budgeting $200 billion in federal funds to spur at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments from private investors and state and local governments.
The president's budget is essentially a list of suggestions to lawmakers. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress exclusive power to spend money, and Congressional budget committees often ignore presidential requests.
"This is a budget proposal from the president, it doesn't mean it's anywhere close to becoming the law," stressed Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "It signals what the policy priorities for the Trump administration will be in the coming year, but it does not compel Congress to take action."
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the proposal includes $23 billion for border security and immigration enforcement, including $18 billion for a wall along the frontier with Mexico. In a statement, Mulvaney said the plan would ensure "a robust and rebuilt national defense."
Under the two-year budget deal reached last week by Congress, the Pentagon will get a record-high $700 billion for 2018. "We took care of the military like it's never been taken care of before," Trump said Monday.
But at a Monday White House meeting on infrastructure with state and local officials, Trump said he looked forward to spending more on the U.S.not overseas.
"As of a couple of months ago, we have spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. Seven trillion dollars. What a mistake," Trump said, using an oft-disputed figure about U.S. spending on wars in the Middle East. "We're trying to build roads and bridges and fix bridges that are falling down and we have a hard time getting the money. It's crazy," Trump said.
But the infrastructure proposal's fate is uncertain. Many members of Trump's Republican Party say they are reluctant to add any additional government spending, especially after passing a major tax cut last year. Many Democrats, meanwhile, want more federal dollars to be used on infrastructure.
Unlike the budget proposal Trump released last year, this year's plan does not promise to balance federal finances, straying from a longstanding Republican goal. Even the White House's budget director, Mulvaney, acknowledged this week that if he were still in Congress, he would not have voted for the legislation.
But Mulvaney, a longtime opponent of federal budget deficits, told CBS'S "Face the Nation" on Sunday that his job now is "to try to get the president's agenda passed."
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