Trump and GOP Outline Plans for Federal Government at Republican Convention

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump walks to the podium for his speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday in Cleveland. Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump walks to the podium for his speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday in Cleveland. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Republicans from across the country gathered in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump as their presidential candidate, and while there was some discord in the party ranks, the GOP was united in its desire to cut the size and scope of government. The speakers articulated few specifics of a government management agenda, but did not shy away from criticizing the Obama administration for expanding the roles of agencies and their regulatory reach.

In his acceptance speech Thursday, Republican nominee Donald Trump to vowed “no tolerance for government incompetence.” He spent much of his speech discussing national security and government’s role in protecting it.

“The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens,” Trump said. “Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.”

Trump promised to cut waste across government on an expedited timeframe.

“We are going to ask every department head in government to provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first 100 days,” Trump said. “The politicians have talked about it; I’m going to do it.”

Specifically, the businessman vowed to reform the Veterans Affairs Department, the Transportation Security Administration and the Education Department, whose “bureaucrats” a Trump administration would no longer “protect.”

"We will fix TSA at the airports, which is a disaster," Trump said. He also said, "We will completely rebuild our depleted military" and "we will take care of our great veterans like they have never been taken care of before."

Trump’s chosen running mate, Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., bragged about his ability to cut public sector workers during his acceptance speech. The potential next vice president boasted Indiana has fewer state employees than when he took office, though data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis show the size of the workforce has actually increased slightly since Pence took office. Pence also promised to make government work more efficiently.

The VP nominee promised the Trump administration would “squeeze every nickel out of the federal bureaucracy.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who Trump considered for his running mate, said (as has the candidate himself) the Republican ticket would discipline poorly performing and malfeasant employees at the Veterans Affairs Department.

"Donald Trump will take care of our veterans by holding bureaucrats at the Veterans Administration accountable,” Gingrich said, referring to the department by VA’s previous name.

He promised a Trump administration would tackle the issues that have shrouded VA in scandal.

“He will fire those responsible for the waiting lists and will give veterans more choices about their care,” Gingrich said. “With Donald Trump’s leadership, no bureaucrat will get between a veteran and their doctor.”

A former federal employee herself took the stage to offer rare praise for the potential of government programs. On Wednesday, former NASA astronaut Eileen Collins, who caused a bit of a stir by not directly endorsing Trump, praised robotic missions to Mars, Jupiter and Pluto but criticized the Obama administration for cutting the space shuttle program in 2011.

“We must do better than that,” Collins said. “Countries that are strong are countries that explore, invent, discover.”

In another call for more government spending, Kelly Terry-Willis and Kent Terry—the siblings of Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent killed in the line of duty in 2012—said in a live video address on Monday the Homeland Security Department should boost resources and personnel along the southern border.

“The best way to honor him,” Terry-Willis said, “is to honor his fellow Border Patrol officers. Obama’s failed policies are leaving Border Patrol agents thinly equipped and not able to do their jobs effectively.” 

She said the government needs the “personnel and equipment” necessary to keep the border secure, calling the current staffing levels in Arizona—1.5 agents for every 10 square miles—insufficient.

Kent Terry said only Trump was serious about addressing those issues.

“[Trump] will give heroic BP agents the resources and support needed to do their jobs,” he said. “Donald Trump will make our Border Patrol secure again.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., meanwhile, promised the Trump-Pence ticket would create a “better way for America” by restricting the authority of “clueless bureaucrats.”

“We in this party, we are committed to a federal government that acts again as a servant accountable to the people, following the Constitution and venturing not one inch beyond the consent of the governed,” Ryan said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., echoed Ryan’s sentiment.

“Over the past few years they’ve seen government abuse their office and get rewarded for it,” McConnell said.

Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., spoke of his rise to notoriety after his high-profile fight to strip government employees in his state of collective bargaining rights. Walker previously ran for president partly on the platform of expanding those policies to the federal level.

“We were tired of the big government union bosses running our state and local governments,” Walker said. “We had enough. So we did something about it. We took back power from the big government special interests and returned it firmly into the hands of the hard-working taxpayers.”

The Democratic Party will formally nominate Hillary Clinton as its presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next week. 

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