The incoming Trump administration is backing a budget plan that would eliminate entire agencies and a number of federal programs, according to a Thursday report from The Hill.
The Trump team has agreed on many parts of plans prepared last year by the Heritage Foundation and a House caucus known as the Republican Study Committee, which would abolish offices within the Commerce and Energy departments, the Hill reported. The Transportation, Justice and State departments would also undergo significant cuts and program eliminations.
The plan, expected to be published within the Trump administration’s first 45 days as it prepares its first formal budget proposal, would also include privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and fulfilling a 25-year Republican goal of abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, according to The Hill.
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“Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration” to press the cuts, reporter Alexander Bolton wrote.
The Heritage Foundation, which grew very influential when the Reagan administration came to town in 1981, last March published a blueprint—before Donald Trump was the clear Republican candidate—calling for cutting taxes by $1.3 trillion over 10 years, balancing the budget within seven years, reducing spending by $10.5 trillion and cutting the deficit by $9.2 trillion over a decade.
The Trump officials working on the plan with White House officials are both veterans of Heritage. They are Russ Vought, a onetime Republican Study Committee staffer and former aide to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and John Gray, who also worked for Pence and also for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., The Hill noted.
The news report came hours before Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee for Energy secretary, told a Senate hearing that he regretted his 2012 campaign promise to eliminate that department. The blueprint Trump is said to be adopting would cut funding and eliminate a host of Energy offices and programs, including the Advanced Research Projects Agency, Innovation Hubs, and Biological and Environmental Research.
Also on the chopping block are what critics see as “corporate welfare” programs at Commerce such as the Minority Business Development Agency, the Economic Development Administration, the International Trade Administration and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
At Justice, the ax would fall on the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corp., accompanied by lowered funding for the department’s Civil Rights and Environment and Natural Resources divisions.
Proposed for elimination at the State Department are the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, along with another foreign policy entity, the Overseas Private Investment Corp.
Eliminating whole agencies and large programs has proven easier said than done. “The structure of federal agencies is as much a product of congressional committee jurisdictions and the concerns of interest groups [as it is] presidents' interest in managing programs,” Donald Kettl, a professor and former dean in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, told Government Executive. “It's not a matter of a new CEO coming in and deciding what a better structure might be. It's the really tough challenge of dealing--simultaneously--with managing functions, pursuing ideology, balancing external political pressures and negotiating congressional committee jurisdictions.”
Any effort at reorganization, Kettl added, risks upending a long history for each program and could create new problems, though that doesn’t mean reorganization shouldn’t be tried.
“The only way the Republicans could pull this, or a portion of it, off” would be via the budget tool called reconciliation, said Norman Ornstein, a political scientist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Reconciliation requires only simple majority votes in the Senate and avoids filibusters.
“There will be a major backlash from a lot of places, from a lot of Republicans,” Ornstein said in an email. “Rural states rely heavily on public broadcasting-- places like Alaska, South Dakota. Every opera company, symphony and local theater relies on NEH, NEA-- and the boards are full of rich Republicans.”
Ornstein predicted that “the votes won't be there in the Senate at least,” anticipating resistance from such Republican senators as Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. “But if they increase defense by a lot, do infrastructure and immense tax cuts, they will take another big whack at discretionary domestic” programs, Ornstein said. "And it will cause plenty of damage with, I suspect, a political backlash.”