Trump plans to claim sweeping powers to cancel federal spending

Trump plans to claim sweeping powers to cancel federal spending

The Washington Post reports:

Donald Trump is vowing to wrest key spending powers from Congress if elected this November, promising to assert more control over the federal budget than any president in U.S. history.

The Constitution gives control over spending to Congress, but Trump and his aides maintain that the president should have much more discretion — including the authority to cease programs altogether, even if lawmakers fund them. Depending on the response from the Supreme Court and Congress, Trump’s plans could upend the balance of power between the three branches of the federal government.

During his first term, Trump was impeached after refusing to spend money for Ukraine approved by Congress, as he pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to provide incriminating evidence about the Biden family. At the time, Trump’s aides defended his actions as legal but largely did not dispute that the president is bound to adhere to budgetary law.

Since then, however, Trump and his advisers have prepared an attack on the limits on presidential spending authority. On his campaign website, Trump has said he will push Congress to repeal parts of the 1974 law that restricts the president’s authority to spend federal dollars without congressional approval. Trump has also said he will unilaterally challenge that law by cutting off funding for certain programs, promising on his first day in office to order every agency to identify “large chunks” of their budgets that would be halted by presidential edict.

“I will use the president’s long-recognized Impoundment Power to squeeze the bloated federal bureaucracy for massive savings,” Trump said in a plan posted last year. “This will be in the form of tax reductions for you. This will help quickly to stop inflation and slash the deficit.”

That pledge could provoke a dramatic constitutional showdown, with vast consequences for how the government operates. If he returns to office, these efforts are likely to turn typically arcane debates over “impoundment” authority — or the president’s right to stop certain spending programs — into a major political flash point, as he seeks to accomplish via edict what he cannot pass through Congress.

“What the Trump team is saying is alarming, unusual and really beyond the pale of anything we’ve seen,” said Eloise Pasachoff, a budget and appropriations law expert at Georgetown Law School.

The Trump campaign defended its proposal, saying Washington must cut spending to reduce the national debt, which has surpassed $30 trillion and is set to keep growing over the next decade. But the Trump campaign has ruled out cuts to the Defense Department, as well as to Social Security and Medicare, programs for the elderly that are the main drivers of the nation’s rising spending. The debt grew by more than $7 trillion during Trump’s administration. [Continue reading…]

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