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Trump reviving his border wall fight with new budget request

By Associated Press


President Donald Trump is reviving his border wall fight, preparing a new budget that will seek $8.6 billion for his signature project, impose steep spending cuts to other domestic programs and set the stage for another fiscal battle.

Budget documents like the one Trump is releasing Monday are often seen as just a starting point of negotiation.

Fresh off the longest government shutdown in history, Trump’s 2020 proposal shows he is eager to confront Congress again to boost defense spending and cut $2.7 trillion in nondefense spending over a decade.

Titled “A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First,” Trump’s proposal “embodies fiscal responsibility,” said Russ Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Vought said the administration has “prioritized reining in reckless Washington spending” and shows “we can return to fiscal sanity.”

Two administration officials confirmed that the border wall request was part of Trump’s spending blueprint for the 2020 budget year, which begins Oct. 1. It would pay for hundreds of miles of new barriers along the border.

Trump’s budget proposes increasing defense spending to $750 billion and standing up the new Space Force as a military branch while reducing nondefense accounts by 5 percent, with cuts recommended to safety-net programs used by many Americans.

The plan sticks to budget caps that both parties have routinely broken in recent years and promises to come into balance in 15 years, relying in part on economic growth that may be uncertain.

The officials were not authorized to discuss budget details publicly before Monday’s release of the plan and spoke on condition of anonymity.

While pushing down spending in some areas, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the proposal will seek to increase funding in others to align with the president’s priorities, according to one official.

The administration will invest more than $80 billion for veterans services, a nearly 10 percent increase from current levels, including “significant” investments in rehabilitation, employment assistance and suicide prevention.

It will also increase resources to fight the opioid epidemic with money for prevention, treatment, research and recovery, the administration said. And it seeks to shift some federal student loan costs to colleges and universities.

By adhering to strict budget caps, Trump is signaling a fight ahead. The president has resisted big, bipartisan budget deals that break the caps threatening to veto one last year  but Congress will need to find agreement on spending levels to avoid another federal shutdown in fall.

To stay within the caps, the budget shifts a portion of the defense spending to an overseas contingency fund, which some fiscal hawks will view as an accounting gimmick.