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story.lead_photo.caption “The problem is not that America tax[es] too little, it’s that Washington spends too much,” Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, testified Tuesday.

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's fiscal 2020 budget, which includes $1.1 trillion in deficit spending, is a "fiscally responsible and common-sense spending plan," a White House official told the House Budget Committee on Tuesday.

Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, portrayed Trump as a would-be budget cutter, undermined by a free-spending Congress.

"The president's commitment to fiscal responsibility has been outlined in previous budgets, and again today he is requesting more reductions to both discretionary and mandatory spending than any other president in history," Vought said.

"Yet each time this president has called for fiscal restraint and spending reform, he has been blatantly ignored," Vought told committee members.

He also faulted President Barack Obama, at least in part, for the existing fiscal situation.

"The national debt nearly doubled under the previous administration and is now more than $22 trillion," Vought said. "This level of debt is unsustainable and threatens the prosperity and economic freedom of future generations."

Committee Democrats blamed the 2017 Republican tax cuts for the recent acceleration in deficit spending and accused the White House of cutting taxes for the wealthy while slashing programs for the poor.

During a nearly three-hour appearance, Vought defended the tax overhaul, saying it's not the cause of the fast-rising deficit.

"The problem is not that America tax[es] too little, it's that Washington spends too much," he said.

He argued that the tax cuts would ultimately pay for themselves by fueling economic growth, which would lead to increased tax revenue.

Republicans on the committee, including U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., praised the president for addressing deficit spending and argued that budget cuts are necessary to curb what they view as out-of-control government expenditures.

"While there is still much work to do to put our spending back on a sustainable path, the president's budget takes steps in the right direction," the former Rogers mayor said. "Whereas, under current law, annual deficits are nearing $1 trillion annually in 2029, under this proposal, the annual deficit will be lowered [in 2029] to $202 billion."

Despite anticipating four straight years of $1 trillion deficits and a decade of unbalanced budgets, Vought said he remains "hopeful that we can prove to the American people that their government is capable of balancing the budget by prioritizing efficient and effective spending."

As a candidate, Trump told the Washington Post that he could balance the budget and pay off the debt within eight years.

Asked by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in February about his failure to rein in spending, Trump said deficit reduction had not been his top priority.

"We had to rebuild our military. Look, that's more important than balancing the budget, which I can always do at the right time. And we had to rebuild many other things," he said.

The administration now says it foresees a balanced budget by 2034; no revised date for paying off the debt has been announced.

In the fiscal 2020 budget, Trump has proposed raising military spending by 5 percent, from $716 billion in fiscal 2019 to $750 billion.

That is paired with cuts of 5 percent to non-military discretionary spending, Republicans say.

Democrats argue that the actual cuts would be closer to 9 percent.

Trump's blueprint, if approved, would reduce spending from its current trajectory by $2.7 trillion over the next decade, Vought said.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, the committee chairman, said Trump's budget is "a recipe for American decline and relies on a patchwork of gimmicks, fantasy projections, and extreme cuts that forfeit any responsibility for the well-being of the American people and our nation. What this administration is saying to our constituents is that the federal government will no longer have a role in making sure we remain an opportunity-based society ... that the American dream is out of reach."

The cuts, he argued, are not only callous, but "malicious."

"You can't cut Medicare by a half a trillion dollars without knowing it will hurt our nation's seniors. You can't cut Medicaid by a similar amount without knowing it will result in families losing health care coverage," the Kentucky Democrat said.

"You can't cut student loans by more than $200 billion without knowing it will make it harder, if not impossible, for young people to go to college. You can't cut nutrition assistance by more than $220 billion without knowing it will leave families without food to put on the table."

Democrats also repeatedly questioned the White House's economic assumptions.

The U.S. economy grew by 3.1 percent in fiscal 2018. The president's budget anticipates growth of 3.1 percent in fiscal 2020 and average growth of roughly 3 percent over the entire decade.

Vought defended the president's proposal as mathematically realistic and fiscally responsible.

Assuming Congress agreed to Trump's budget cuts and the economy grows at 3.1 percent, the government would collect $3.65 trillion in revenue while spending $4.75 trillion in fiscal 2020.

With the spending reductions, the national debt, which topped $22 trillion last month, would rise by $7.26 trillion between fiscal 2020 and 2029, approaching or surpassing $30 trillion.

U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., told Vought that the blueprint won't be adopted.

"This administration's budget is dead on arrival in the House," he said.

In an interview, Womack said the White House always faces a fight over how to spend taxpayer money.

"I've seen a lot of presidents' budgets in the eight years I've been here," he said. "They are more aspirational in terms of establishing the priorities of the administration, which is understandable, but they become a really hard sell in a divided government where Democrats will have their say in the House and even in the Senate."

It's unclear whether Democrats will be able to agree among themselves on a budget, he said.

"There very possibly could not be a budget passed," he added.

Congress has struggled to approve budgets in recent years, he noted.

"The whole process is flawed," he said. "We need budget process reform, and the American people deserve it, and it's something I'll try to continue to champion."

Closer scrutiny of non-defense discretionary spending is a good thing, Womack said. But cuts to those programs won't result in a balanced budget, he said.

Discretionary spending, including military spending, accounts for only 30 percent of federal spending, Womack said. The other 70 percent is for mandatory programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, plus interest on the debt.

By fiscal 2029, mandatory spending will make up 78 percent of the budget, he added.

"If somebody says that you can cut discretionary programs sufficient to eliminate deficits, then they're not being intellectually honest. It's just not possible," he added.

A Section on 03/13/2019

Print Headline: Trump's budget plan 'responsible,' aide says

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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    March 13, 2019 at 6:06 a.m.

    "Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, portrayed Trump as a would-be budget cutter, undermined by a free-spending Congress." This is HILARIOUS. Is this guy for real? Wait, he's one of Trump's favorites so I guess he is and he's about as full of BS as Trump himself.
    ...
    Let's be REAL CLEAR on this. The budget submitted is Trump's budget, not the one that Congress will present to him. So, if this budget already has a $1.1 trillion deficit before even making it to Congress it's completely on Trump, not Congress. Secondly, that "free-spending Congress" has been a REPUBLICAN Congress for the entire period of Trump's presidency and the two years prior to Trump so the problem is primarily of Republican handiwork.
    ...
    With regards to the comparison to Obama, if you look at prior presidencies several doubled the debt or even more from the time they entered office to the time they left it. Obama took over the country at a time of extreme economic crisis and through tax cuts (that raises the deficit) and spending increases in infrastructure and defense (that raises the deficit) got the country back on its feet and started the LONGEST period of economic expansion in recent history.
    ...
    When Obama left office, deficits were dropping during his final years and only started to rise during the year that Republicans had control of both houses of Congress. When Trump took over from Obama, the country was in good economic shape and Trump's actions which typically happen in recessionary years did very little to improve it. In fact, the economy is actually starting to tilt downward as some of Trump's economic policies are creating a drag on it.
    ...
    We have yet to see any real improvements locally in the economy that Trump promised such as his $1 trillion infrastructure program or a healthcare system EVERYONE would love. The bottom line is that Trump's budget is just more spending by Republicans with no taxes to pay for the spending. At least Democrats work to cover their debts.

  • 3WorldState1
    March 13, 2019 at 7:45 a.m.

    Too bad facts don’t back this guy up. Look at the policies hat drive the debt during BO admin. Tax cuts, wars, and Medicare Part D. All Unfunded and placed on the credit card.
    Biggest drivers of Trumps term? Tax cuts and Gov spending.
    GOP=big gov.
    You can’t cut taxes and over spend for 30 years and expect to just cut your way out of it. Sometimes you have to get a second job and ask your employer for a raise -and make cuts. If ur arguing that there is one solution to this argument u immediately lose.

  • Seitan
    March 13, 2019 at 8:43 a.m.

    Trump + "responsible" = fake news.

  • mrcharles
    March 13, 2019 at 9:41 a.m.

    As GM can tell you in the barnyard, the step in the right direction probably doesnt exist, as you are going to step in what you will have to scrape off your shoe. Woooomack, yes, ignore the deficits , save that rhetoric for when a democrat gets elected you can " What about the children" [ ignore the proposed cut backs on helping children}

    Amazing deficits , then as our gomer POTUS says, surprise surprise we got to do something about the safety net, hey says sea bass we got more tanks, air craft carriers, the best fighter jets in the world, but lets increase the military budget to fight space aliens if they attack. .

    The ship has landed with its drunken gop sailors. But when we have to support the troops we are told now we cant criticize them. I would submit for consideration that the gop does criticize our troops when they dont follow the party line mantra.

    As the gop says, please pass the grey poupon. Sooner or later the masses will understand the "let them eat cake" is not a positive statement but the disdain the elites feel for the hard working mericans.

    gop is still batting a 1000% in government dont work and their party plank, We make sure it dont work.

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