WASHINGTON — After President Donald Trump proposed deep cuts to domestic spending programs, Midlands lawmakers were quick to point out that the final word on spending belongs to them.
“In our system of government, the president proposes and Congress disposes,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. “Congress has the power of the purse strings. I’ve never seen a president’s budget proposal not revised substantially.”
A member of the Senate Budget Committee, Grassley said the administration is right to scrutinize federal spending but says he’ll be looking closely at how those cuts would affect Iowa.
Several other Midlands lawmakers struck a similar tone.
Among the areas they are likely to examine: the $4.7 billion in trims to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s discretionary programs, which do not include nutrition assistance commonly referred to as food stamps. An administration summary indicates part of those savings would result from staffing reductions in USDA service center agencies that handle everything from subsidies to rural development.
Taxpayers for Common Sense notes that presidents from both parties have proposed such reductions in the past, only to be rebuffed by rural lawmakers. In fact, Congress has repeatedly placed restrictions on USDA closing agency offices.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, noted the country’s debt and said it’s vital for government to find places to cut, including “unnecessary and duplicative programs” such as the Appalachian Regional Commission and Delta Regional Commission.
But she said she’ll look to protect programs important to the “heartland” and said that those agriculture programs facing cuts have value.
“I’m troubled by how dramatic his proposed cuts are to programs across the USDA that our rural communities rely on,” Ernst said.
Other cuts include the elimination of Essential Air Service subsidies that keep planes flying in small communities like McCook, Nebraska.
Indeed, Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., represents the state’s largely rural 3rd District that includes McCook and other communities that count on the air subsidies.
“As we work together to get our fiscal house in order, we must ensure any final budget does not disproportionally impact rural areas,” Smith said.
Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, noted that he’s the only House member from Iowa who serves on the House Appropriations Committee.
“My priorities will be focused on the specific funding needs of Iowans and the nation, while also ensuring we do our best to be fiscally sound and responsible with the taxpayers’ dollars,” he said.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., is reviewing the proposal, said spokesman James Wegmann.
But he also alluded to one aspect of the new budget proposal: It does not cover the biggest factor in federal deficits, which are programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Sasse continues to stress that the primary drivers of our national debt are actually “empty Washington promises on entitlement spending,” Wegmann said.