President Trump said on Wednesday that he would begin to cut the federal budget with the help of his Cabinet.
“We’re going to ask every Cabinet secretary to cut 5 percent for next year,” Trump said before a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
The president’s request is likely for his fiscal 2020 budget proposal, which is due to Congress early next year.
Although Trump can ask his Cabinet secretaries to cut their budget proposals, the federal budget is approved by Congress. Lawmakers are free to draw up their own spending plans for federal agencies and the rest of the government.
The president does have the leverage of his veto. After approving the $1.3 trillion budget plan Congress sent him in March, Trump threatened he would “never sign another bill like this again.”
The Treasury Department reported that the federal budget deficit rose this year to $779 billion. That amounts to a 17 percent increase over the previous year, and it’s the highest deficit in six years.
Trump has called for deep, double-digit-percentage reductions for federal departments that were rejected by Congress. His first proposed budget last year included the elimination of 62 agencies, which lawmakers ignored.
Conservatives are increasingly restive about budget deficits, which have received far less attention from Republicans lately than they did during the Obama administration.
Trump blamed Democrats in Congress for seeking increased spending on domestic programs in exchange for his desire to build up the military. Unwilling to threaten a shutdown before the midterm election, Trump indicated that he felt compelled to go along with spending bills to secure his desired increases for the Pentagon.
He attributed a spike in federal spending to the needs of the military.
“Military was falling apart, it was depleted, it was in very bad shape,” he said Wednesday.
This year’s deficit could have been higher, the Treasury said, but the timing of certain payments was shifted.
This week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested that deficit increases were the “dire consequences of irresponsible and unnecessary spending.”
A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, released this month, said tax cuts Congress approved last year partially led to the deficit jump. Yet this was necessary to secure such a booming economy.
Stan Collender, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University, said that if the entire annual federal budget was cut by 5%, it would be $200 billion to $300 billion – and the federal budget deficit for next year is projected at $1.1 trillion. This would be a significant cut. Even Ron Paul once suggested a 1% cut across government to balance the budget within five years.
Three-quarters of the federal government has been funded through the end of September 2019. The remaining agencies, which include the Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Transportation and Homeland Security, are funded through Dec. 7.
Congress will attempt to avoid a partial government shutdown and pass a budget for those agencies before the end of the year.
Lawmakers debate spending for the Transportation Department for the year that started Oct. 1. The House approved $71.8 billion and the Senate $71.4 billion for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, which are each more than $1 billion above current spending and more than $23 billion above what the Trump administration requested.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which is second in size only to the Pentagon among federal agencies, has a budget of roughly $200 billion for the coming fiscal 2019 year. That includes $8 billion for mental health care services, $400 million for opioid abuse prevention and $200 million for suicide prevention efforts. Trump has been very adamant about taking care of our veterans.