Statement Of Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On President Trump’s “Skinny Budget” Proposal
Last Thursday the Trump Administration submitted his first “Budget Blueprint” to Congress. He called it “America First, A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” This title would be laughable if the topic were not so serious.
Like some of the President’s tweets, his budget is a hasty list of appallingly unbalanced, shortsighted, politically driven priorities. He proposes to eliminate or drastically cut programs that benefit the middle class and safeguard our most vulnerable citizens, programs that protect our environment, and programs that promote our interests overseas and security at home. Instead he wants to spend billions of taxpayer money on a misguided wall along the southern border and increased spending for the Pentagon.
He says his proposal is about “strength, security, and resolve.” He could not be more wrong. We cannot make America “Great Again” at the expense of middle class families and the most vulnerable among us. We are not a “great” nation if we abandon our shared desire to cure cancer, or bring an end to Alzheimer’s Disease, by slashing billions from the National Institutes of Health. You cannot switch complex and promising medical research off, and then maybe on again later.
We are not a “great” nation if we eliminate heating assistance for the 6 million vulnerable households that receive LIHEAP—21,000 of which just had to dig themselves out from an historic snow storm in Vermont. And we are not a “great” nation if we do not protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.
You do not make America “stronger” by eliminating the very programs that strengthen our alliances around the world and make our nation more secure. We are not a “strong” nation if we simply pour more money into the Pentagon and renege on commitments to international peacekeeping and security alliances, slash funding to respond to humanitarian crises, and cut our diplomatic presence around the world.
The President says he prefers “hard” power to “soft” power, but the notion that “soft” power is weak or wasteful is mindless. Cutting programs that feed millions, prevent AIDS, or treat tuberculosis and malaria, will make the world less stable and less secure.
The Trump budget proposal is divorced from reality and packed with partisan campaign promises. He promises infrastructure investment and then cuts critical federal funds for proven, successful, state transportation projects. He claims he will save rural America, and yet cuts those federal programs that spur rural economic development. The President has no real vision.
We need a serious budget proposal—a proposal that acknowledges the devastating effects the Budget Control Act and sequestration have had on our country. A budget that charts a path forward rather than doubling down on further cuts on programs for the middle class. We need a budget proposal that invests in our citizens and in our military—not a proposal that pays for one at the expense of the other.
We have a lot of work to do. We must finish the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations bills and get to work on Fiscal Year 2018. To accomplish that, we need a budget framework that respects the principles in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015—including parity between defense and non-defense spending, and no poison pill riders. We also need relief from sequestration, not more misguided cuts. The Trump proposal takes us backwards, not forward.
Thankfully it is Congress who holds the power of the purse, not the President. And I take this responsibility very seriously. I look forward to working across the aisle with my colleagues both on and off the Appropriations Committee to craft a responsible budget, a thoughtful budget, a serious budget. One that truly makes us a better and safer nation and that reflects the values we share as Americans.
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