WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump's $1.1 trillion federal budget proposal released Tuesday drew cautious praise from Republicans on Capitol Hill and outright derision from Democrats, painting an uncertain future for the plan.
The budget proposal includes almost $670 billion in defense spending (split between base military accounts and overseas contingency funds) and $180 billion plus for the Department of Veterans Affairs, both totals the White House has touted as fulfilling Trump's promise to take care of troops and veterans.
But it also includes a host of controversial program cuts and cancellations that have already drawn harsh attacks from Democrats in Congress.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted plans to cut Medicaid, government research and foreign aid to pay for the military plus-ups.
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"When you add all of it up, the Trump budget is comic-book-villain bad," he said on the Senate floor. "It's the kind of budget you might expect from someone who is openly rooting for a government shutdown."
Senate Armed Services Committee member Richard Blumenthal, R-Conn., called the budget "stunning in its cruelty" and "counterproductive" in its results.
"What it fails to recognize is that our national security involves more than just military spending," he said in a statement. "The budget undercuts our defense industrial base by failing to invest in skill training. And by decimating domestic programs, it will simply make us less safe."
Republicans pushed back on those attacks, calling the defense funding plans a step in the right direction for national security.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., praised the budget proposal for focusing on "what is right by prioritizing defense and balancing the budget in ten years." Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the second-ranking Republican in his chamber, said "there is much to like in the president’s priorities" on military spending.
But both men also cautiously referred to the budget plan as a "starting point" for lawmakers, by no means a finished product.
Several party colleagues were harsher. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., called the proposal "inadequate to the challenges we face, illegal under current law, and part of an overall budget proposal that is dead on arrival in Congress."
That’s because the White House plan assumes lawmakers will overturn spending caps put in place in 2011, something lawmakers have been unable to do for the last six years. McCain said without a "long-term solution to sequestration," the budget plan is worthless.
A day earlier, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, called Trump’s defense spending "basically the Obama approach" and a shortfall of almost $40 billion from what the Defense Department needs.
Lawmakers are expected to issue their official response to the budget plan before mid-summer. Military and VA officials are scheduled to testify before congressional committees in coming days, with drafts of the annual defense authorization bill expected in late June.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.