Now that the White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has been confirmed, the office is ready to move forward with a long list of Republican targets for budget cuts. A new memo from the White House’s hit list of domestic spending shows which agencies will be cut, with many of them costing very little compared to other government spending programs.
The New York Times reports that these planned cuts will be hitting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AmeriCorps, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities, and the Legal Services Corporation, among others.
According to the Times, most of the programs cost under $500 million per year, compared to a projected budget of $4 trillion. An internal memo was circulated within the Office of Management and Budget highlighting these programs as “examples of misuse of taxpayer dollars.” The memo notes that the list may change and that more extensive cuts will probably follow. The amount of savings proposed by the initial list, however, only up to about $2.5 billion, which is comparatively small.
The targeted agencies have been asked to provide a response by Friday, and a final list of cuts will be released by March 13, according to the Times source.
Some of them are quite surprising. Last week, the Trump complained about the presence of drugs in the country and promised to do something about it, saying at a press conference.
“We’re becoming a drug-infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars. We’re not going to let it happen any longer.”
However, one of the programs on the Republican hit list is the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which provides grants for reducing drug use and trafficking.
Other agencies on the cut list are the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps.
Advocates for these programs are expected to put up quite a fight against any cuts and with 48 seats in the Senate, Democrats may still be able to save the most popular programs.
Many of these programs have been in the crosshairs of Republicans since 1994, when Speaker Newt Gingrich led the House in repeated efforts to cut spending on the National Endowment for the Arts, the Humanities, and PBS, forcing supporters to show up on Capitol Hill with Big Bird and Kermit the Frog of Sesame Street in tow.
Most of the cuts were anticipated with the incoming Trump administration, but the battle could end in another case of government gridlock. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, both defense and domestic spending is capped. Trump told Fox News last month that he feels a strong military is more important than a balanced budget.
With funding for the current fiscal year set to expire at the end of April, Republicans could well find themselves battling Democrats over lifting the caps in order to funnel more money into military spending. Likely, Democrats will demand a lift on domestic spending to match, resulting in a possible showdown on the Senate floor.
According to Robert Lynch, head of Americans for the Arts, the fight for defunding the National Endowment for the Arts is historically hard for Republicans to win.
“The public wants to see agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts continue. There is always a debate, but there has been agreement among Republicans and Democrats that funding for the arts is a good thing, and it has been kept in place.”
Former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee, Steve Bell, told the Times that the programs in the memo are common targets for budget cuts by Republican legislators. Now with the Bipartisan Policy Center, Bell says the cuts involved will have little effect on overall government spending.
“It’s sad in a way because those programs aren’t causing the deficit. These programs don’t amount to a hill of beans.”