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Old 03-16-2017, 08:09 AM
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Cool Bipartisan bloc blasts White House on Coast Guard cuts

Bipartisan bloc blasts White House on Coast Guard cuts
By JEREMY HERB 03/08/17 04:30 PM EST

Nearly two dozen senators on Wednesday slammed the White House for proposing major cuts to the Coast Guard's budget to help pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall and stepped-up immigration enforcement.

“We urge you to restore the $1.3 billion cut to the Coast Guard budget, which we firmly believe would result in catastrophic negative impacts to the Coast Guard and its critical role in protecting our homeland, our economy and our environment,” write 23 senators, led by Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney.

They warned the cuts “would directly contradict the priorities articulated by the Trump administration, in particular the priorities regarding enhanced maritime security needs and desire to invest in our national security.”

In draft budget documents first reported by POLITICO, the Coast Guard’s budget for fiscal 2018 would be reduced 14 percent to $7.8 billion, while the TSA and FEMA would both see drops of more than 10 percent.

The cuts would help fund Trump’s immigration crackdown, including more than $1.9 billion for Trump’s border wall, $915 million for border surveillance technology and $285 million for the first tranche of new Customs and Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

Hardest hit would be the Coast Guard's budget for new helicopters, vessels and other equipment, including the cancellation of a new national security cutter, the Coast Guard's largest ship class.

The senators — 20 Democrats and three Republicans — argue that the Coast Guard's acquisition of the cutter and new polar icebreakers should not be sacrificed given its major role in drug interdiction efforts and port security.

The Trump administration has not finalized its budget blueprint, which is expected later this month, and the full fiscal 2018 budget will be released in the spring.

The OMB faces tough choices cutting $54 billion from so-called discretionary spending — the optional appropriations, in contrast to entitlements like Medicare and Social Security — in order to pay for Trump's equal increase in military spending in fiscal 2018.

The Coast Guard is considered a branch of the military, but nearly all of its funding comes through DHS, not the Pentagon budget.

Trump administration officials have said the budget is still being finalized and that it’s premature to discuss details. An OMB spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the senators' letter.

The letter underscores the resistance the proposed cuts face on Capitol Hill, where several senior senators have also come to the defense of the nation's primary maritime security force.

“Given the vital installations they guard and how many drugs and contraband they intercept along our maritime borders, cutting the Coast Guard to pay for a vacuous and expensive vanity project like a border wall would be dangerous and irrational,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Wednesday.

Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has also expressed skepticism, saying the proposal to reduce support for the Coast Guard would receive “careful scrutiny in Congress.”


Jeremy Herb @jeremyherb

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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