WASHINGTON, April 9 (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden has called on Congress to sharply increase spending on climate change, cancer and underperforming schools, but his first budget wishlist on Friday sparked cries of bipartisan concern about military spending.
The $ 1.5 trillion budget, reflecting an 8% increase in base funding from this year, stands in stark contrast to the goals of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
He would distribute billions more in areas ranging from public transportation, poor schools, toxic site cleanups, foreign aid and background checks on gun sales, but spend nothing on border walls.
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The budget “makes things fairer,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Still, the proposal was met with bipartisan contempt for its suggested funding for the Defense Department, on roughly even an inflation-adjusted basis at $ 715 billion. The administration also cut an “Overseas Emergency Operations” account which even government bureaucrats said had become a slush fund for additional military spending.
Biden’s demand has displeased both liberals hoping to impose cuts and hawks who want military spending to increase to deal with threats from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea – a reminder of the uphill battle Biden faces to implement the policies he has promised as a candidate beyond the COVID-19 emergency.
Five leading Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, issued a joint statement warning that the Biden plan sent “a terrible message” to allies and adversaries of the United States and called into question the will of the administration to ‘face China.
“We cannot afford to fail in our constitutional responsibility to provide the common defense,” wrote lawmakers, including senior Republicans on critical Senate committees involved in the budget-making process.
The United States allocates nearly half of its discretionary budget to military and defense, and has long spent more than any other country.
US Representative Ro Khanna of California, one of the leading Liberal Democrats on security issues, said the demand for military spending was “disappointing” and left open the possibility of “unnecessary spending” on missiles.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, chairman of the budget committee and a leading Liberal who frequently collaborates with Biden, said he was broadly supportive of the budget, but said it was “time for us to take a serious look. “the” waste and fraud. “
The agency failed its full audit in fiscal 2020, the third year in a row, reflecting broad system and accounting issues.
“MOMENT OF POSSIBILITY”
Almost three months after the start of work consumed by the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden’s proposal document offered a long-awaited glimpse into the new president’s agenda.
Biden would increase spending by $ 14 billion across all agencies to deal with the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, a change from the Trump administration’s rejection of climate science.
The president is reportedly spending millions to deal with the growing number of unaccompanied children arriving at the country’s southern border from Central America, including $ 861 million to be invested in this region to prevent asylum seekers from coming to the country. United States.
But his budget would provide no funding for building a border wall, the administration said, a priority for Trump, and would increase funding for investigations of immigration officials accused of “white supremacy.”
Among the largest proposed funding increases are $ 36.5 billion for a federal assistance program for public schools in poorer neighborhoods, more than double the 2021 level, and for research into deadly diseases other than COVID-19 pandemic that has dominated its tenure so far. .
“This moment of crisis is also a time of possibility,” wrote Biden’s interim budget manager Shalanda Young in a letter to the Senate.
Biden is reportedly spending $ 6.5 billion to start a group conducting targeted research into diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, a program that reflects Biden’s long desire to use government spending to create breakthroughs in medical research.
The historically short “skinny” budget was delayed, only spanned 41 pages, and did not indicate how much the country’s debt would increase or what taxes would fund spending.
In contrast, the first budget proposal released by President Barack Obama and Vice President Biden in 2009 was released in February and spanned 134 pages.
The document also provides only cursory spending figures on “discretionary” programs and departments where Congress has the flexibility to decide what it wants to spend for the fiscal year beginning in October. This does not include areas deemed mandatory, including old age, disability, unemployment and medical benefits, which consume more than two-thirds of the overall budget.
The document also does not include Biden’s $ 2 trillion infrastructure proposal or another large spending bill expected in the coming weeks. These changes would be included in a full budget proposal to be submitted in late spring.
Still, the document kicks off months of negotiations with Congress over what will ultimately be funded.
“This is the start of what we know to be a long journey,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
The White House had criticized the resistance of politically appointed budget officials during Trump’s transfer and denied that competing interests on issues such as military funding played a role in the delay.
Biden also had to withdraw his original choice, Neera Tanden, to lead the Office of Management and Budget after struggling to gain Senate approval.
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Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Peter Cooney
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