Here’s where things stand heading into Day 56 of the Trump administration:
Want a sense of President Trump’s priorities? Take a look at his budget plan for the federal government.
Trump is proposing a sharp increase in military spending, and he would pay for it with cuts to much of the rest of the government, including long-standing programs to assist the poor, fund scientific research and aid U.S. allies around the world.
Here are some hard numbers: Trump wants to increase defense spending by $54 billion while cutting money from more than 18 other agencies. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency would see its budget cut by more than 30 percent, while the departments of Agriculture, Labor and State would see reductions of more than 20 percent.
The proposal would also eliminate support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Now, Congress ultimately has control over the budget, and that could mean trouble for some of these ideas — even among Republicans. As our colleagues wrote, members of the GOP have objected to the “large cuts in foreign aid and diplomacy that Trump has foreshadowed, and his budget whacks foreign aid programs run by the Education, State and Treasury departments, among others.”
What’s strange is that parts of Trump’s budget seem to contradict his agenda. We’ve heard many times that the president wants to undertake major infrastructure spending. But his proposal would eliminate a Transportation Department program that funds close to $500 million in road projects, our colleagues wrote.
NEW TRAVEL BAN, NEW COURT FIGHT
Last week, President Trump issued a new travel ban that was supposedly designed to avoid another fight in court.
So much for that. On Wednesday, a federal judge froze Trump’s order nationwide after lawyers for the state of Hawaii contended the policy is essentially a Muslim ban and thus violates the First Amendment.
The new executive order stops the government from issuing new visas to people from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. It also suspends the U.S. refugee program for 120 days and reduces the total number of refugees allowed into the United States this year.
Trump argues that the policy is necessary to stop radical Islamist terrorists from entering the country. But Hawaii’s lawyers pointed to the situation facing Ismail Elshikh, an imam who fears his mother-in-law will not be able to travel to the United States from Syria.
“All of the Muslim residents in Hawaii face higher hurdles to see family because of religious faith,” lawyer Colleen Roh Sinzdak said at a hearing Wednesday.
CHANGES COMING TO GOP HEALTH-CARE BILL
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has finally acknowledged it: His health-care bill needs changes if it’s going to pass the House.
That’s a big change from just 24 hours ago, when Ryan was urging Republican rank-and-file lawmakers to back the plan to revise the Affordable Care Act.
The measure has been in trouble since it was introduced last week, and that trouble grew after the Congressional Budget Office released a report Monday finding that 14 million fewer Americans would have health insurance after one year under the Republican plan.
So far, Ryan has not said what changes are under consideration. Conservative critics of the bill have urged leaders to speed up the cuts to eligibility for Medicaid, the program that was expanded by some states under Obamacare.
In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday night, Trump promised elements of the bill that harm working-class people are “going to be negotiated.”
“If we’re not going to take care of the people, I’m not signing anything,” he said, calling himself an arbitrator “in a little way” in the health-care debate. “I’m not going to be doing it, just so you understand.”
GROUND TROOPS POSSIBLY HEADED TO SYRIA
If it happens, this would be a big development.
The United States might be about to double the number of forces on the ground in Syria ahead of an attack on the de facto capital of the Islamic State, Raqqa.
Right now, the military has plans to deploy up to 1,000 more troops in the coming weeks. The plans were created after a request from Trump, who has made defeat of the Islamic State, or ISIS, his chief foreign policy objective.
The troops would not play an immediate combat role, but the move could “increase the potential for direct U.S. combat involvement” in the Syrian conflict, our colleague wrote.
ABOUT TRUMP’S WIRETAPPING CLAIM …
Is there evidence that President Barack Obama ordered Trump Tower’s phones tapped during the election, as Trump has claimed on Twitter?
There’s one pretty important figure who does not think so.
That would be Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which is in charge of one of the congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,” Nunes (R-Calif.) said Wednesday. He added that if anyone took Trump’s tweets literally, then “clearly the president was wrong.”
Trump stuck by his assertion Wednesday in his interview with Fox News, although he clarified when he used the word “wiretap,” that “covers a lot of different things.”
“I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” he said when asked why he hasn’t provided evidence to support his claim.
He said he had read about the wiretapping issue in the New York Times and heard it discussed on Fox News.
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