A top House Republican is joining a chorus of GOP complaints over President Donald Trump’s plan to dramatically cut funding for the State Department and other agencies in order to boost military spending — showing just how hard it will be for the White House to implement its dramatic new budget proposal.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, wants Trump to look at changes to popular entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid instead of slashing funding for the federal agencies.
Frelinghuysen is meeting with new OMB Director Mick Mulvaney — a former House colleague — on Thursday to deliver his message.
The White House has floated a plan to steer an additional $54 billion to the Pentagon in 2018, while cutting funding for the State Department, EPA and other agencies. The plan is already running into serious trouble on Capitol Hill.
Trump has said repeatedly that he won’t cut Social Security or Medicare, but he would have to make huge reductions in other federal agencies to fund his Pentagon buildup without busting the budget. Democrats have blasted such a move, and Hill Republicans are already signaling their opposition as well.
“I think foreign aid is pretty important myself, so I’d like to see what the president has to say,” Frelinghuysen told reporters on Tuesday, hours before Trump was scheduled to address a joint session of Congress. “There are some pretty important programs that keep America open for business and that are vital to our national security. I think it would be good to look at entitlement programs. Those are the real cost drivers.”
Frelinghuysen added: “I’d like, obviously, my other congressional colleagues to take a look at those entitlement programs. Social Security is different than others, because its not a traditional entitlement.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also balked at the proposed cuts to State Department and foreign aid at a press briefing Tuesday.
The Kentucky Republican told reporters the Senate would “probably not” pass legislation cutting more than one-third of the State Department’s budget, as Trump reportedly wants. Officials there have warned those cuts would require dramatic restructuring and staffing cuts across the board.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) delivered a more blunt take in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday: “It’s dead on arrival. It’s not going to happen. It would be a disaster.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) criticized the plan as well, saying on Twitter, “Foreign aid is not charity. We must make sure it is well spent, but it is less than 1% of budget & critical to our national security.”