News & Politics

Trump, Senate Ready to Rumble Over Spending Cuts

Credit: Ron Sachs / Pool via CNP /MediaPunch/IPX

Looks like the Senate grandees are stamping their tiny feet over the new Trump administration’s proposed spending cuts. I wonder who’s likely to win this fight?

President Trump may be headed into a big fight with Republican lawmakers with his plans for dramatic cuts to federal spending. Officials in the Trump administration are combing through conservative budgets to find ways to save money in an effort to get rid of the “tremendous waste, fraud and abuse” that Trump pledged to eliminate during the campaign.

Many of the proposals that the officials are reviewing would gain support from a majority of conservative House Republicans, who have sought to cut the federal deficit by scrapping government programs they view as unnecessary. But some of Trump’s targets have fans in the GOP-controlled Congress, particularly in the Senate.

How about that! Did anyone really thing that Mitch McConnell, Orrin Hatch, Lisa Murkowski and the other senatorial detritus that needs to be swept away would give up their pork-barrel perks without a struggle?

One likely target is the Legal Services Corporation, a federal agency providing financial support for civil legal aid to low-income people. Conservatives have long sought its elimination, arguing it has become beholden to liberal causes and noting the Congressional Budget Office has included its defunding as an option to the Senate and House. Eliminating it would save nearly $400 million next year.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, this week warned that it’s not a battle worth fighting. “I think that would be hard thing to do. Even if you wanted to do that, you couldn’t get it through the Senate,” he said.  President Reagan tried to abolish the agency shortly after taking office in 1981 but ran into a wall in Congress.

Well, that was then and this is now. Reagan ran against big government in general; Trump has run against corrupt Washington — and the fat cats of the GOP — very specifically.  As previous presidents have learned, there’s something to be gained from placating powerful senators; but as LBJ showed, there’s even more to be achieved by beating them into submission by any means necessary. Let’s hope Trump takes the latter course — losing even a symbolic round over discretionary spending to the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party at this point would be a serious error, especially given the big battles to come.

If Trump governs like a one-term president, he’ll be a two-term president. Vice-versa, and his own base will dump him in 2020.