President Trump unveiled his budget this week and it’s being met with mixed reactions from Wyoming lawmakers.
The president is proposing massive cuts to safety net programs like Medicaid and Meals on Wheels in order to pay for a defense buildup. He also wants to slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by thirty percent, while also cutting the Interior Department’s budget by eleven percent, which critics say would cripple National Park funding.
Wyoming’s lawmakers are largely avoiding discussing the details of the document though. Take senior senator, Mike Enzi. He’s the chair of the Senate Budget Committee. In his committee’s hearing on the budget he praised the broad outline of the document.
“I applaud the aggressive approach contained in the president’s budget to reorganize and reform both programs and federal agencies to ensure they are both effective and efficient,” said Enzi.“I would also like to comment the president and Director Mulvaney on proposing a budget that balances.It’s been years since the White House has even attempted a balanced budget. But here in the very first budget the president proposal President Trump has provided a plan to get to balance.”
Enzi knows the annual budget dance well: The saying is ‘President’s propose, Congress disposes.’
“Of course this is merely the first step in the 2018 budget process,” said Enzi. “While the president has his plan, the United States Constitution instills members of Congress with key tax and spending functions. And with the responsibility to ultimately decide what our nation’s fiscal priorities will be.”
Enzi takes that job seriously. But he said he’s also taking the president’s budget seriously.
“Budgets are an incredibly important part of governing because they’re the fiscal blue prints for the nation,” Enzi said. “It’s crucial that Congress and the president work together to confront rapidly growing deficits born from our government’s habitual over spending which plagues America and its taxpayers.”
But Democrats say the budget is dead on arrival and are promising to do all they can to gut it, especially provisions that take care of the oil and gas industry while slashing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency. Virginia Democrat Don Beyer said those cuts are unacceptable.
“The most important impact it’s going to have is on the quality of our environment,” said Beyer. “You can’t go take 30 plus percent cuts and 25 percent of the workforce and not have it impact the quality of our air, the quality of our water, our ability to move forward on environmental protections.”
Beyer said the wins from the oil and gas industry in the budget reveal the true power of their lobbying efforts in recent years.
“They’re trying to deemphasize all the alternative fuels,” said Beyer. “Look, the Koch brothers have played an incredibly major roll in the Republican ascendency in America and they’re getting paid back right now.”
Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney has her own problem with Trump’s budget.
She said, “he promised that he was going to rebuild the military and the budget fails to do so.”
While Democrats are complaining that the president is proposing blasting through spending caps on the defense side of the budget while slashing social programs, Cheney sees it differently. She says the military needs much more than six hundred billion dollars next year.
“We’re at a really dire moment in terms of the security of the nation,” said Cheney. “And the condition of the armed forces, and we can’t do what we need to do at 603.”
Wyoming’s junior senator John Barrasso disagreed.
“What he gets right is that he has more money for military – takes a look at some entitlements, because we’re addicted to spending in this country and we’ve got to get that under control,” said Barrasso.
Still, Barrasso said he and other Republican Party leaders are planning to overhaul the document.
“The president’s budget is just a recommendation,” Barrasso said. “It’s kind of the direction that they’re pointing.”
Lawmakers in both parties are now in the driver’s seat when it comes to writing the nation’s spending bills but President Trump will have the final say because he now is wielding a veto pen, which has critics worried the government could face a shutdown this fall if lawmakers drastically rework the president's priorities.