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Trump budget plan would fail to eliminate deficit over 10 years, briefing document shows

By JEFF STEIN AND ERICA WERNER | The Washington Post | Published: February 9, 2020

The White House is preparing to propose a budget that would fail to eliminate the federal deficit over the next 10 years, according to an internal summary of the plan obtained by The Washington Post, missing a longtime GOP fiscal target.

Instead, White House officials plan to say that their budget proposal would close the deficit by 2035. During Trump’s first year in office, his advisers said their budget plan would eliminate the deficit by about 2028. This new budget will mark the third consecutive time that they abandon that 10-year goal and instead suggest a 15-year target. This new trend shows how little progress the White House is making in dealing with ballooning government debt, something party leaders had made a top goal during the Obama administration.

Trump has shown little interest in dealing with the deficit and the debt, though some GOP party leaders say it remains a priority.

The last budget of Trump’s first term, expected to be released publicly on Monday, also calls for about $2 trillion in cuts to “non-defense discretionary programs,” a category of government spending that does not include Social Security or Medicare.

The White House promised to close the federal deficit over a similar amount of time in its budget last year, after abandoning its initial pledge to close the budget deficit in 10 years. As a presidential candidate, Trump vowed to eliminate not just the annual federal deficit but all debt held by the U.S. after eight years in office.

“Trying to balance the budget in 10 years is very difficult, so having a longer time horizon makes a lot of sense,” said Marc Goldwein, a budget expert at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates reducing the deficit. “Fifteen years is still very aggressive.”

The 2017 GOP tax cuts and new domestic spending approved by bipartisan majorities in Congress have increased the deficit under Trump’s administration. However, the budget summary contains the line: “All administration policies will pay for themselves, including extending tax cut provisions expiring in 2025.”

The budget is expected to request $2 billion in homeland security spending for the border wall — billions of dollars less than in past years and billions less than Congress has agreed to. However the administration has siphoned billions more from the Pentagon budget ever since declaring a national emergency at the border following last winter’s government shutdown. The budget document says that the administration expects to have completed 400 miles of new border wall by the end of 2020.

“The President’s budget to fund the wall and border security with big increases for infrastructure, technology, and law enforcement personnel,” a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the budget was not released yet. “This request is based on what’s required to gain operational control of the border. Since taking office, President Trump has prioritized funding for a border wall. With funding available, the Administration will build up to approximately 1,000 miles of border wall along the Southwest border.”

The budget is expected to propose 5% net cuts in domestic discretionary spending, which is expected to include cutting the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention despite the spreading coronavirus.

In the past, Congress has restored proposed cuts to the CDC budget. At the same time, the budget will maintain Pentagon spending at its current level, or boost it if increases in a so-called overseas contingency account are included. As in past budgets, this one will cut heavily into programs targeting low-income communities, including slashing community development block grants and home heating assistance.The Education Department will be cut by $6 billion as the administration proposes a consolidation of elementary and secondary education, said a person briefed on the proposal.

Trump said on Twitter Saturday that the budget “will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare.”

The federal debt has already grown by about $3 trillion under Trump.

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