Politics

Big Spending Goals, Zero Focus on Deficit in Trump Speech

The word “deficit” appeared in the State of the Union only once

President Donald Trump arrives in the House chamber to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday. The word “deficit” came up in his speech only once. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump laid out plans in his State of the Union address Tuesday for additional spending on infrastructure, border security, defense, workforce training and paid family leave programs.

But he didn’t include any details on paying for those programs. The word “deficit” didn’t appear once in Trump’s speech — except to tout the nation’s “infrastructure deficit,” by which he meant more spending.

“Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need,” he said. The administration has said the federal contribution to an infrastructure package should be at least $200 billion over a decade, but has not yet outlined specific “pay-fors.”

Trump has been promising bipartisan legislation to bolster America’s infrastructure since the campaign trail, but exactly what projects would be prioritized in such a plan and how much it would cost remain to be determined — both by the administration with an official plan and by Congress, which controls government spending.

Watch: Members of Congress Arrive With Guests: State of the Union 2018

Trump also called for increasing the amount of spending allowed on defense under the 2011 deficit reduction law. Congressional leaders and the administration have for months been trying to negotiate a bipartisan agreement on discretionary levels for both defense and nondefense spending. One key sticking point, not addressed in the speech, is how much to increase nondefense discretionary spending. 

“I am asking the Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military,” Trump said. 

Trump also touted paid family leave, which has been a key legislative issue for his daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump. Although he dedicated only one sentence to the issue, the president called on Congress to “support working families by supporting paid family leave.”

The administration’s fiscal 2018 budget request proposed six weeks of paid leave for all new parents, including adoptive parents. That request would have used the unemployment insurance system to “allow states to establish paid parental leave programs in a way that is most appropriate for their workforce and economy. States would be required to provide six weeks of parental leave and the proposal gives states broad latitude to design and finance the program.”

Trump also mentioned job training and education programs Tuesday, though it was unclear whether money would be attached to specific proposals in his fiscal 2019 budget request forthcoming on Feb. 12. “As tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training. … Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential,” Trump said.

The one instance in Trump’s speech that might be considered a nod to reining in spending was a brief mention of overhauling welfare programs, which went unnamed but traditionally have referred to means-tested benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget called for cutting about $270 billion from those and other welfare programs over a decade, which Congress ignored.

“We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity,” Trump said. 

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