Most of the Proposed House Budget Goes for War
September 15, 2017
World Beyond War & The Hill & National Priorities Project & USA TODAY
By a vote of 211-198, the House passed a $1.2 trillion package of spending bills to fund wide swaths of the federal government, ranging from the Department of Homeland Security to the Environmental Protection Agency. Under the GOP budget, that's $696 billion for war and $523 billion everything else -- a 57% cut for war (up from 54% last year). It's closer to 64% of the budget if you include funds for nuclear weapons which are channeled through the Department of Energy.
The House Produces a War Budget
A Quick Assessment from World Beyond War
Together, the bills appropriate $621.5 billion for defense spending and $511 billion for non-defense discretionary spending. It also devotes another $87 billion in Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding, which does not count toward budget cuts. Of that, $75 billion went to defense, $12 billion to non-defense.
So that's $696 billion for war, $523 billion everything else. That's 57% for war -- up from 54% last year. More accurately it's already at 64% because these funds don't include the money for nuclear weapons, which fall under Department of Energy's budget. The cost for a planned upgrading the Pentagon's nuclear arsenal is estimated to cost a trillion dollars over ten years.
House Passes $1.2 Trillion
Government Funding Package for 2018
Christina Marcos and Niv Elis / The Hill
(September 14, 2017) -- The House on Thursday completed its work on the annual appropriations bills for 2018, ahead of expected negotiations at the end of this year to keep the government funded.
By a vote of 211-198, the House passed a $1.2 trillion package of spending bills to fund wide swaths of the federal government, ranging from the Department of Homeland Security to the Environmental Protection Agency.
"This is a big day," Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said, touting the House's use of regular order to pass the 12 bills. "This is the first time the House has done that since 2009," he said.
The package included eight new bills, plus four previously passed appropriations bills that advanced through the House in July. Regular order for appropriations typically involved passing each of the bills individually, not in groups of 4 or 8.
Congress sent a three-month government funding extension to President Trump's desk last week to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1. That means Congress will have to finalize government spending for 2018 in December.
"This is the next step in the process, but it is not the end. Funding these important federal responsibilities and keeping the government open is our constitutional duty to the people we serve, and I look forward to the final completion of all these critical bills," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.).
The passage of all 12 of the annual appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year is a first for Republicans who have not been able to move them all in the same time frame in recent years.
Together, the bills appropriate $621.5 billion for defense spending and $511 billion for nondefense discretionary spending. It also devotes another $87 billion in Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding, which does not count toward budget cuts. Of that, $75 billion went to defense, $12 billion to nondefense.
Lawmakers passed a national security-themed spending package in July comprised of the other four annual appropriations bills. It included a $1.6 billion down payment to begin construction on a US-Mexico border wall, a top priority for President Trump. Trump pledged during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, a suggestion rejected by the Mexican government.
Despite the hours spent by the House to complete work on the individual spending bills, none of the measures are expected to get consideration in the Senate due to the threat of a Democratic filibuster.
The Senate remains significantly behind the House in its appropriations process, having passed none of its spending bills and only 10 of the 12 are through the full appropriations committee. Neither chamber has approved a budget resolution, though the House did pass one through committee, and the two chambers are working off different top-line numbers.
Congress is likely to enact an all-encompassing spending package known as an "omnibus" before current government funding runs out on Dec. 8. That package will have to include a change to budgetary caps. If lawmakers fail to do so, even a funding extension would result in sequestration -- across the board cuts to meet the budget cap requirements -- in late January.
Lawmakers submitted more than 900 amendments to the spending package, but the House Rules Committee only green-lighted 342 for floor consideration.
When Republicans first took over the House majority in 2011, annual appropriations bills were considered under a process allowing members of both parties to offer unlimited amendments. But Ryan ended that practice last year after Democrats kept offering culture-war amendments on LGBT rights that divided House Republicans.
The Rules Committee therefore did not allow votes on amendments submitted by Democrats to prevent federal funds from being spent at businesses owned by President Trump, restore protections from deportation for young immigrants and prohibit spending to maintain Confederate monuments.
But the House did adopt bipartisan amendments to rein in the government's ability to seize assets of suspected criminals, in defiance of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions directed the Justice Department in July to reverse Obama-era policies that restricted the federal government from taking assets from local authorities, a practice known as "adoptive forfeiture." Critics argue that it lets law enforcement circumvent state laws which make it harder to seize property if a person has not been convicted of a crime.
A bipartisan amendment sponsored by members ranging from the conservative House Freedom Caucus to liberal progressives was adopted by a voice vote to prevent the Justice Department from implementing Sessions's directive.
The House also adopted an amendment sponsored by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) to punish so-called sanctuary cities by blocking funds from a program that helps pay to incarcerate immigrants in the US illegally who have committed felonies or multiple misdemeanors.
Sanctuary cities argue that laws forcing them to turn over anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally worsen crime, because immigrants are hesitant to call the police. The amendment would force the cities to choose between that policy and receiving funds to incarcerate people in the country illegally who have committed felonies.
Another amendment adopted by the House would block implementation of a key Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule to limit methane emissions from new oil and gas drilling sites. The EPA under President Trump has tried to halt enforcement of the rule while it works to delay it by two years, but federal judges have blocked the attempts.
The Militarized Budget 2017
National Priorities Project
The United States is the single biggest military spender in the world. This report takes note of that fact, and ties US military spending -- which is primarily focused on current and potential conflicts abroad -- to its analog here at home: spending on veterans of foreign wars, incarceration, immigration enforcement, and the war on drugs.
In 2016, the militarized budget amounted to 64 percent of discretionary spending.
US military spending, traditionally defined, was $618 billion in 2016. Studies that seek to define a "national security" budget -- which includes the military, and also veterans' affairs, homeland security, and similar expenses -- can easily arrive at estimates approaching or exceeding $1 trillion per year.  That amount is roughly equal to the entire US discretionary budget.
This report defines a different, but related, concept: the militarized budget. In recognition that the US maintains both the world's highest military spending, and one of its highest incarceration rates, the militarized budget includes the traditional military budget, as well as spending on veterans' affairs, homeland security, incarceration, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, and the still-ongoing war on drugs.
The US Military Budget
The United States has a military budget that is greater than the next seven countries combined: more than rivals like China and Russia, and more than allies like Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and France.
At $618.8 billion in 2016, military spending accounted for more than 53 percent of the federal discretionary budget -- the budget that Congress sets each year during its annual appropriations process.
The Militarized Budget
The militarized budget includes discretionary spending on the traditional military budget, as well as veterans' affairs, homeland security, and law enforcement and incarceration. In 2016, the militarized budget totaled $741.3 billion -- amounting to 64 percent of discretionary spending.
The biggest category of militarized spending by far was the Department of Defense, accounting for 79 percent of the total, followed by Veteran's Affairs.
Nevertheless, the non-traditional segments of the militarized budget added tens of billions in spending. Together, US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement accounted for $17.7 billion -- more than the budgets for Head Start ($9 billion), the Federal Emergency Management Agency ($10.8 billion) or the Environmental Protection Agency ($8.6 billion).
Some things have stayed the same: since 1976, the militarized budget has always been larger than the non-militarized budget, though the gap widened substantially during the 1980s.
But some things have changed dramatically. Federal prison funding has increased since 1976 by more than ten times, a period during which the number of federal prisoners increased by more than six times.
Federal spending on immigration and border control has skyrocketed, too:
A More Militarized Future?
An America where more than 64 percent of our annual discretionary budget is spent on the military, incarceration, immigration and law enforcement may give some Americans pause.
The budget proposals put forth by President Trump would intensify this distribution of resources. President Trump's proposals include a 10% increase in military spending, as well as new spending on border control (including a wall), deportation and removal of undocumented immigrants, and smaller increases for the FBI, drug enforcement, and prison activation and "modernization."
On the non-militarized side, the president's proposals call for severe cuts to everything from education to health care and housing. 
A recent poll showed that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats opposed increases to military spending, and preferred lower levels of spending on Homeland Security -- which includes immigration control -- than the president proposed. 
The United States is overdue for a conversation about the militarization of our federal budget.
 Mandy Smithberger. "America's $1 Trillion National Security Budget." Retrieved April 3, 2017 from http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/defense-budget/2016/americas-1-trillion-national-security-budget.html.
 Office of Management and Budget. "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again." Accessed April 3, 2017 from https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf.
 Christopher Ingraham, "The public wants a budget that looks very different from Trump's." The Washington Post. March 24, 2017. Accessed 4/3/2017.
What Trump Proposed:
Trump Budget to Increase Defense,
Slash EPA, Other Agencies
Donovan Slack / USA TODAY
WASHINGTON (February 27, 2017) -- President Trump has signed off on top-line numbers in a budget outline that seeks to make good on his campaign promises by hiking military spending by 10% and offsetting the cost with deep cuts to other agencies across the federal government.
"This budget will be a public safety and national security budget, very much based on those two with plenty of other things but very strong," Trump said Monday. "And it will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it."
He said he will lay out more detail during a prime-time address to Congress Tuesday.
"This defense spending increase will be offset and paid for by finding greater savings and efficiencies across the federal government," Trump said. "We're going to do more with less."
The White House said the budget outline includes a $54 billion increase in defense spending and an equivalent cut in non-defense, discretionary spending. That would mean the current discretionary budget of $1.064 trillion would remain unchanged.
As part of the proposed cuts, which would affect nearly every agency, the administration will seek to decrease foreign aid, something the president referenced Monday morning during a meeting with governors at the White House. Trump said the budget "puts America first by keeping tax dollars in America."
It also includes investments in law enforcement and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"We can do so much more with the money we spend," Trump said. "With $20 trillion in debt, can you imagine that, the government must learn to tighten its belt, something families all across the country have had to learn to do unfortunately."
The White House sent the approved top-line numbers Monday to individual agencies, which will be tasked with filling in the details of where cuts and increases would be made before the White House finalizes the budget proposal and sends it to Congress in the coming weeks. Congress would then be responsible for debating and passing spending bills, on which Trump would have the final sign-off.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, wasn't waiting to hear more details. He said Monday that Trump's proposed cuts -- roughly 10% of non-defense, discretionary spending -- would take "a meat ax to programs that benefit the middle class."
"A cut this steep almost certainly means cuts to agencies that protect consumers from Wall Street excess and protect clean air and water," Schumer said in a statement Monday.
"This budget proposal is a reflection of exactly who this president is and what today's Republican Party believes in: helping the wealthy and special interests while putting further burdens on the middle class and those struggling to get there."
Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the budget outline numbers do not take into account revenue projections from promised tax cuts or added spending on infrastructure. Nor does it rely on any financial impact from a repeal-and-replace of the Affordable Care Act. He said those items would be included in a "full-blown" budget proposal that would be submitted to Congress in May.
In the meantime, he said the so-called "skinny budget" that will go to Congress in March is a reflection of Trump's promises on the campaign trail.
"It is a true America-first budget," Mulvaney said. "It will show the president's keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do when he ran for office."
Overall, defense spending would increase to $603 billion annually, while spending on non-defense programs would drop to $462 billion. The amounts do not include non-discretionary spending -- mandatory outlays to pay for entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Among non-defense agencies whose funding could be on the chopping block are the departments of Agriculture, Education, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and State.
More than 20 agencies provide aid to help other countries with everything from improving education and health to security. In 2017, the US government had planned to distribute a total of $36.5 billion, including $3.1 billion to Israel. Even if that budget was zeroed out, a significant amount would have to come from domestic programs to which Americans have become accustomed.
"This is beyond (cutting) waste, fraud and abuse, this is cutting off a right leg and a right arm," said Stan Collender, an analyst at Qorvis MSLGROUP and author of The Guide to the Federal Budget. "I mean you're talking about material changes in the way a department operates . . . this is not only not insignificant, this would be the most significant cut in domestic spending maybe ever."
Contributing: David Jackson
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.