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Here’s the early context for Trump’s budget

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The first federal budget process under the Trump administration has officially kicked off. But it’s a long, winding road to the final budget as President Trump lays out his expectations, agencies lay out theirs and the House and Senate weigh in.

This article was originally published at Climate Central

The opening salvo came on Monday, when administration officials said Trump plans to request a $54 billion increase in defense spending, which currently totals $584 billion and makes up 49 percent of the discretionary federal budget. The U.S. defense budget is the largest in the world, nearly tripling its closest competitor, China. To offset the increase, other agencies will have to cut their spending.

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As with all budgets, the devil is in the details. Those details will come into focus over the next few months. The early signs from Trump’s end indicate that past efforts to curb climate change could be on the chopping block.

Two agencies have been singled out by administration officials. The Environmental Protection Agency and State Department have been targeted as two agencies where Trump “will demand a budget with tens of billions of dollars in reductions,” according to the New York Times.

The EPA has a budget of $8 billion while the State Department has a budget, including foreign aid, of roughly $50 billion. Shaving “tens of billions” off their budgets would be a huge blow to the work they do or eliminate them entirely. According to Axios, a senior administration official said the cuts at EPA would be “transformational cuts, particularly to climate-change programs.”

That lines up with the vision that White House chief strategist Steve Bannon put forward over the weekend that Trump is working toward the “’deconstruction’ of the administrative state.”

The Heritage Foundation’s budget proposal represents a guidepost. Last year, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, put out a federal budget proposal that could offer some clues of where the Trump administration may seek cuts. The think tank played a major role in shaping Trump’s transition. It also denies the established science behind climate change, as does Trump and the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s views have hewed closer to the reality of the science behind climate change, though he has remained skeptical on some points of it.

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At the EPA, the Heritage Foundation’s plan called for eliminating climate programs, reducing funding for rules enforcement, and other steps that would cut an estimated $4.5 billion out the agency’s budget. The same proposal also advocated for $1.3 billion in cuts to the State Department, including eliminating all U.S. funding for the Paris Agreement, Global Environmental Facility, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and United Nations Development Program.

Other agencies will likely face cuts. Even though the EPA and State Department have been singled out, it’s pretty clear other agencies will also be facing proposed cuts to offset the defense spending increase. Medicare and Social Security, two programs which account for $1.5 trillion in spending alone, have been deemed as off limits by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The federal budget in 2016 (Credit: Congressional Budget Office)

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That leaves a broad array of agencies, including many that do climate work, as potential targets. NASA, the departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Energy and Commerce all do extensive climate work that could be targeted given the administration’s desire to defund climate research and regulations.

Of course, Monday’s announcement is merely a sketch of the budget. The fine details of it will take months to finalize. The Trump administration has promised to release a top-line budget proposal by mid-March.

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That will have more details about where they’d like to see specific cuts and increases happen. Then Congress will have a say. To meet Trump’s proposal, Congress would have to approve increasing defense spending caps that were put in place from a 2013 budget deal.

Any cuts would have huge ramifications. Reducing the budget isn’t just a game of numbers. It affects government employees, who could be out of jobs, and everyday people. Myron Ebell, Trump’s transition lead at the EPA, said he wanted to reduce the EPA’s workforce by about a third. That would put 10,000 Americans out of work and reduce oversight of polluters that harm the American health

Scott Pruitt has also proposed rolling back regulations at the EPA, including the Clean Power Plan. According to a recent report by Energy Innovation, that would lead to 40,000 premature deaths (in part because the plan will also reduce particulate matter that can cause respiratory problems) and cost the U.S. economy $100 billion by 2030.

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Any attempts by Pruitt to rollback the Clean Power Plan or other environmental protections will likely be met with fierce opposition from environmental groups, making the budgeting process a part of a much larger battle over the fate of climate research and regulations.


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Trump team ‘is as incompetent, shambolic, paranoid, and given to conspiracy theories as it appears’: MSNBC panel

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In a Sunday evening panel discussion, MSNBC commentators explained that the White House appears to be just as chaotic and marred by chaos as the rumors say.

Many in the White House learned that the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was working overseas in Ukraine. Giuliani claimed that he's been producing a film that he couldn't get Fox News to run, as it will appear on the fringe network OAN.

"What Rudy Giuliani is doing is using Kremlin-manufactured propaganda as a defensive shield for the president," said CNBC's John Harwood. "Fiona Hill was unambiguous in her testimony to the intelligence committee. What Rudy Giuliani has been doing with these two indicted men who are linked to a Russian oligarch who is tied to Russian organized crime, is trying to manufacture a story that Ukraine, rather than Russia or in addition to Russia or differently from Russia, meddle in the campaign. That is false."

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Watch Devin Nunes freak out and eject reporters when asked about phone calls with Lev Parnas

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Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) lost it over the weekend when he was asked about his phone calls with Rudy Giuliani's associate Lev Parnas, who was recently indicted.

Nunes was at a Republican Party fundraiser in New York City when two Intercept reporters asked about the impeachment probe. Recent phone records subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee revealed that Nunes had multiple conversations with Giuliani and with Parnas.

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Trump supporters lose their minds when church shows Nativity scene in immigrant cages

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MAGA supporters are losing their minds after a photo of the Nativity scene at Claremont United Methodist Church was posted to Facebook.

The scene depicts Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus separated and put in their own cages, a reference to the families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. Inside the church, the family is shown as reunited.

Senior minister Karen Clark Ristine shared the image on Facebook with the message hoping that everyone in the United States could see the photo and read the story for Christmas.

"The theological statement posted with the nativity: In a time in our country when refugee families seek asylum at our borders and are unwillingly separated from one another, we consider the most well-known refugee family in the world," she wrote. "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family. Shortly after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary were forced to flee with their young son from Nazareth to Egypt to escape King Herod, a tyrant. They feared persecution and death."

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