The unanimous votes by the House appropriations panels show the depth of opposition to Trump's budget plan to make widespread cuts at most domestic agencies. One subcommittee has rejected Trump's proposal to eliminate the $1.6 billion Food for Peace program that ships U.S.-grown food to hungry nations. The other subcommittee has restored a $1.2 billion cut proposed by Trump to Army Corps of Engineers water and navigation projects.
The spending bills are part of $1.2 trillion-plus in annual agency budgets passed by Congress. Trump proposed to cut the Agriculture Department measure by roughly one-fourth; the panel instead cut the bill by about 5 percent from current levels.
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, praised Republicans for "basically ignoring most of the cuts in the president's budget." The House Appropriations panel is plowing ahead with the bills even though Republicans controlling Congress have yet to agree on a budget to guide the process. Republican defense hawks are wielding great influence, prevailing in a plan to increase defense spending to $621 billion — an increase of about $70 billion, or 13 percent, from current levels — and pad war accounts by $10 billion above Trump's request.
But Republicans don't have the stomach for Trump's planned $54 billion, 10 percent cut to domestic programs and foreign aid. Instead, they are proposing cuts of about 1 percent, on average, in nondefense programs.
Democrats, however, vow to oppose spending legislation that fails to increase domestic programs, and their votes are needed to pass the measures through the Senate. And without Democratic support, GOP efforts to boost the Pentagon budget would be reversed by rules left over from a 2011 budget and debt deal that would impose automatic cuts known as sequestration.
In a provision related to the agriculture spending bill, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., won a provision that would direct the Agriculture Department, which runs the federal school lunch program, to curb the practice known as "lunch shaming," in which some schools have embarrassed children whose parent have fallen behind in their lunch payments.
"They've taken their plate of food and they've thrown it out. They put stickers on kids that say, 'I owe school lunch.' What are we talking about?" said DeLauro.