Late on April 30th, lawmakers reached a budget agreement to keep the United States government fully funded through the end of September, and the final text suggests Donald Trump perhaps is not the best negotiator after all.
On Sunday, the President appeared frustrated as he spoke to CBS’ “Face the Nation” regarding the intricate rules of crafting a national budget. “I think the rules in Congress and, in particular the rules in the Senate, are unbelievably archaic and slow moving and, in many cases, unfair. In many cases, you’re forced to make deals that are not the deal you’d make. You’d make a much different (sic) kind of a deal. You’re forced into situations that you hate to be forced into.”
The full text, which can be read here, is the first significant bipartisan effort of the Trump administration. It is surprisingly full of wins for Democrats in a government controlled by the Republican Party.
Here are five critical areas in which the Trump administration has notably surrendered in its first spending negotiations:
1. There is no money for the President’s signature project of a border wall. Although the President reassured his supporters at a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania rally two days ago, “Don’t worry, we’re going to have the wall. Don’t even worry about it…Rest assured. Go home, go to sleep,” the latest budget agreement allocates no money to start any construction of a wall. The bill places further restrictions by specifying the $1.5 billion – half of the White House’s initial demand– in funds can only be used towards investment in new technologies and repairs to existing infrastructure.
2. The President initially wanted to gut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, slashing 31% of its funding and forcing cuts of over 3,000 jobs. The final budget agreement trims the EPA’s budget by 1% and forces no job cuts.
3. The President vowed to stop increases in non-defense domestic spending and called for $18 billion in cuts, but the budget has plans to grow the size in government. The budget designates funds for disaster relief to California, West Virginia, Louisiana, and North Carolina. The budget also grants government funds to the continued provision of health benefits to Appalachian coal miners and their families, investments in fighting the national opioid epidemic and Medicaid costs in Puerto Rico.
4. The President called for cutting the National Institute of Health’s budget by $5.8 billion. Instead, the NIH will receive a boost of $2 billion, which includes $400 million to research Alzheimer’s and $476 for the National Cancer Institute. The bipartisan effort to boost NIH funding is a sharp repudiation of the administration’s clearly stated goals.
5. The new budget continues to pay subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, which effectively reduce the costs for lower-income individuals covered by the health law. Additionally, there is no cut to Planned Parenthood.
On the global front, the President vowed to put “America First” and dramatically scale back foreign aid. The administration’s budget proposed slashing funding for United States Agency for International Development (USAID) by halting funding and focusing efforts to rechannel resources to programs directly tied to national security objectives. The proposed cuts would have affected areas such as global women’s issues, climate change and food and health security.
The final bill contains $1.6 billion for USAID – an increase of $82 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level – and the bipartisan text clearly states “This funding supports the proper management and oversight of development programs that provide stability in volatile regions and enhance U.S. presence in critical and strategic areas.”
The budget agreement is expected to be signed this week and could have just as easily been signed during any year of the Obama presidency.
While the deal spares Republicans the embarrassment of a government shutdown on their watch, it does underscore the internal divisions of the GOP and many members’ reluctance to embrace the Trump agenda. The White House got almost nothing it wanted, and the Democrats are calling this a clear victory.
Sana Ali studied International Relations and International Economics at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She is a freelance journalist with experience covering the diplomacy, national security and identities beats for multiple international outlets. She is currently based in Washington, DC.
Photo by: Michael Vadon