Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP

Trump Details in Congressional Address How He’ll Shrink Government - and Grow It

President touts hiring freeze in addition to proposed spending increases.

President Trump on Tuesday evening delivered a call to shrink government in some areas while growing its mission in others,  touting the ways he has already “drained the swamp of government” as well as the new responsibilities he has bestowed upon federal agencies. 

In his first address to a joint session of Congress, the president boasted of his federal hiring freeze and efforts to reduce and revoke agencies’ regulatory agendas. He also, however, plugged new federal offices, task forces and spending his administration has already put into place or requested.

“We've saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter,” Trump said in a somewhat dubious claim, “and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our government.”

He added his administration has “placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential federal workers” and “undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations.” He specifically cited executive orders he has signed to create new teams at federal agencies to identify regulations for elimination and to mandate that two existing regulations be streamlined or eliminated for every one new rule implemented. 

In a speech that struck a far more optimistic tone than his inaugural and Republican National Convention addresses, Trump promised to remove bureaucratic hurdles at agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and “across our government” that stand in the way of innovation in fields such as medicine.

The president also cited many examples of his plans to grow the scope of government; he flouted new national security tasks for the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and State, including a new office to assist victims of crimes committed by immigrants. Trump in particular mentioned the new policies he has instituted at immigration enforcement agencies to ramp up deportations of undocumented immigrants.

“As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens,” Trump said. “Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.”

The president also vowed to “soon begin the construction of our great, great wall along the southern border” and to deliver it ahead of schedule. Without mentioning the dramatic cuts he has planned for domestic agencies, Trump touted his forthcoming budget and the $54 billion increase he will propose for the military.

“I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history,” Trump said.

He also called for increased funding for the Veterans Affairs Department.

“Our veterans have delivered for this nation,” Trump said, “and now we must deliver for them.”

Ultimately, Trump asked the American people to believe in themselves and the country, and in a government that he said had, until his presidency, failed them.

“The torch is now in our hands,” Trump said. “A new chapter in American greatness is now beginning.”