ABBY MERGENMEIER, Capital News Service
JESS NOCERA, Capital News Service
NATE HAROLD, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON (AP) —Maryland Democrats on Thursday voiced their displeasure with the Trump administration’s budget proposals, citing federal cuts to Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the National Institutes of Health.
“The Trump budget is great if you can get on a plane every weekend and fly to Mar-a-Lago, but it stinks for everybody else,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said at a Capitol Hill press conference. “If you look at the cost to the taxpayer to fly to Mar-a-Lago each weekend, it’s about $3 million, estimated.”
To put that number into perspective, Van Hollen said that the federal budget for Meals on Wheels, a program that helps feed 2.4 million seniors in the United States, is also $3 million, but the proposed “budget wipes out” the money for this program.
Programs for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup also would be eliminated if the budget were approved.
This cleanup is the largest effort to restore a body of water in U.S. history.
“The Chesapeake Bay is essential to our livelihood, our economy. The idea that this can be stopped is hard to believe,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker in a press call.
When Baker and fellow CBF members heard of the initial budget cut from $73 million to $5 million last week, Baker said it “was very hard to ascertain how accurate that really was.”
However, the release of Trump’s budget shows that the cut will actually be total.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Baker and Van Hollen each stressed that this spending cut could cause fish, oyster and crab populations in the bay to diminish quickly, as well as increased amounts of dirty water that could result in beaches closing and tourism dollars plummeting.
“Universally, Congress must quickly reject the president’s budget before the absurdity of his proposed cuts…causes ripples of uncertainty and fear across the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed economy,” Cardin said in a statement. “At a time when we have seen nitrogen levels dropping and dead zones shrinking, President Trump is intent on turning the clock back decades.”
Baker noted that the president’s desire to zero out funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup is “an insult to all who have worked to try and save the Chesapeake Bay.”
Maryland’s only Republican Congressman, Rep. Andy Harris, of Cockeysville, and a member of the Appropriations Committee, said in a statement that the Chesapeake Bay is a “treasure,” and that he will continue working with the Trump administration to “prioritize” Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts within the Environmental Protection Agency.
Another major area that would take a hit if the proposed federal budget were approved is the National Institutes of Health, located in Bethesda, Md. NIH would lose $5.8 billion, a 20 percent reduction in its overall budget of $30 billion.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington, took to Twitter Thursday morning to fight back: “A message for Donald Trump: keep your petty little hands off the large indispensable mission of @NIH. #TrumpCuts.” Raskin further tweeted that the “#TrumpCuts to @NIH are outrageous,” saying that NIH is the leader of biomedical research in the world and supports 400,000 jobs.
Additionally, it “includes a major reorganization” of NIH’S 27 institutes and centers, although what the administration is planning for the reorganization remains unclear.
“President Trump’s hypocrisy on infrastructure is astounding,” said Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, in a statement. “Less than a month ago the president talked about building gleaming new infrastructure, but when it comes time to put up or shut up, we see cuts, not anything signaling new investment.”
Among the 19 independent agencies that Trump wants to defund is the Appalachian Regional Commission. The ARC is a federal-state partnership focused on economic development in western parts of Maryland and areas of several other states. The call to defund the ARC is noteworthy because the commission serves a region that not only largely supported Trump’s campaign but is also an area that Trump promised to rejuvenate economically.
The ARC provides grants to nonprofit organizations (schools and organizations that build low-cost housing), state and local agencies and governmental entities.
“President Trump said he would help America’s forgotten men and women, but his budget does just the opposite,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, said in a statement.
“His budget would devastate working families across this nation while at the same time lavishing extravagant favors on his rich friends.”
Delaney wrote in his statement that he felt Trump’s “economically illiterate budget” was an attack on Maryland and said that all elected officials in Maryland should “be marching to the White House to object this budget.”
He also called on Governor Larry Hogan to “forcefully reject this budget.”
The Trump administration’s proposed budget hopes to raise defense spending in 2018 by $52 billion to $639 billion, a 9 percent increase from last year’s budget.
“This budget will be a public safety and national security budget,” Trump said during a Feb. 27 White House press conference. Trump has touted his defense budget as one of the largest single-year increases in defense spending in history as he aims to strengthen the American military.
According to The Washington Post, the proposed budget will increase the sizes of the Army, the Marine Corps as well as the Navy’s fleet.
The budget proposal also aims to increase spending for the Department of Homeland Security by 7 percent, or $2.8 billion, with immigration reform as the lead motivator.
“As the worldwide terrorist threat and other international dangers grow,” Harris said, “President Trump’s proposed increases in defense and homeland security spending are vital for continuing to keep Americans safe, and I support his proposed increases.”
Increases in homeland security spending could generate the hiring of hundreds of Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, as well as provide funding for Trump’s Mexico border wall.
“I thought President Trump said that Mexico was going to pay for this wall,” Van Hollen said. “Look, I think all of us recognize we need more security..but the thing about the wall is that all the experts tell you that it is just a waste of money, that it will not achieve its goal.”
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