President’s Budget Blueprint:
Last Thursday, President Trump released his FY 2018 Budget Blueprint. The budget blueprint, also known as the “skinny budget,” includes top-level funding requests and some basic economic projections, though far less information and detail than the previous five administrations. The Trump administration’s full budget is expected to be released in mid-May.
President Trump’s skinny budget cuts $54 billion of non-defense discretionary spending—representing the largest domestic spending cut to the US budget in more than four decades—while increasing funding for the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.
This, despite an internal January 2015 Pentagon study detailing $125 billion in wasteful administrative spending. The shear size of the waste would more than offset the President's proposed cuts to other domestic programs and agencies.
The study was prepared by the Defense Business Board, a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants from McKinsey and Company. Originally published on the Defense Department's (DOD) website, it was apparently removed out of concern that claims of austerity challenges by DOD would not be taken seriously. According to Trump's Blueprint, among the agencies facing the largest cuts from the annualized FY 2017 Continuing Resolution (CR) funding level in this budget include*:
*Keep in mind that FY 2017 funding levels are not fully discerned as there is only a partial year CR in place and the percentage cuts are actually higher when compared with FY 2016 funding levels.
Compared to the funding level in FY 2016, USDA’s cut would mean that its total discretionary spending level would fall to $17.9 billion, from $25.2 billion in FY 2016, or a 29% funding cut. This cut targets food safety, rural development, conservation funding and international food aid. For example, the budget eliminates the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program that, according to USDA, served 2.26 million children in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Laos, Malawi and Tanzania.
WIC does not seem to be targeted by the cut to Agriculture spending. The budget outline provides $6.2 billion “to serve all projected participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).” Without knowing all of the budget details included in the proposal to fund WIC, $6.2 billion is $150 million less than the FY 2016 appropriation, and $160 less than NWA’s FY 2018 appropriations request. It still may be adequate to meet caseload needs in FY 2018 as WIC caseloads have continued a steady decline from a high of 9.2 million in 2010 to a current participation level of 7.3 million.
Despite the WIC funding level, we are concerned about cuts to other domestic programs and what these cuts might mean for WIC families. For example, the budget blueprint eliminates funding for regional water cleanup efforts, ends grants for ozone pollution cleanup and infrastructure assistance, and “reins in” spending on the toxic waste cleanup Superfund. Cuts to air and water quality programs will have implications for the health and well-being of young children, including childhood asthma rates and lead poisoning – think Flint, MI.
It is expected that the $54 billion cuts to non-defense discretionary programs will be vigorously resisted by Senate Democrats, who have the power to block spending bills since passage will require 60 votes. In addition, Republicans on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are likely to push back against funding cuts to programs that in their view work well. We will keep you posted as the FY 2018 Appropriations process unfolds.
In addition to the FY 2018 budget outline, the administration also released a FY 2017 supplemental budget calling for $30 billion in additional funding for defense and border spending and $18 billion in cuts to domestic programs. WIC is not specifically mentioned in the supplemental request.
Republicans’ ACA Repeal:
The repeal and partial replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the top priority of House Republican leaders this week. The Republican replacement bill, known as the American Health Care Act, was passed last week by the House Budget Committee and is expected to face a full vote in the House this Thursday. For a more thorough discussion of the American Health Care Act, please see our blog post from March 8th.
The bill would result in an estimated 14 million Americans losing health insurance next year, and 24 million losing health insurance by 2026, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). It would also eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund and drastically cut the federal contribution to the Medicaid program.
The bill has faced challenges within the Republican party in recent weeks. Conservative Republicans have criticized the bill for offering tax credits for the purchase of health insurance, while moderate Republicans worry about changes to Medicaid and premiums rising in price. To bring in more conservative Republicans, President Trump has offered Medicaid options for states including a work requirement for beneficiaries and block-grant payments to states. To bring in more moderate Republicans, Paul Ryan is seeking to increase tax credits for older people (in their 50’s and 60’s) to buy insurance. Republican leaders can afford to lose no more than 21 votes in the House, presuming all Democrats vote against the bill.
The Senate Agriculture Committee plans a hearing this Thursday at 10 a.m. on former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue’s nomination to be agriculture secretary.
Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing:
President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, goes before a Senate committee starting today as a heavy favorite to win confirmation to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.