Rep. Connolly predicts dire outcomes from Trump budget proposals

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Washington, June 9, 2017 | comments
Brian Trompeter

President Trump’s proposed budget would undermine key environmental programs and cost Northern Virginia tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity, U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-11th) said June 8.

“It’s probably one of the most radical documents that any president has submitted to any Congress,” Connolly told Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce members during a legislative update at the Tower Club in Tysons. “It slashes domestic investment profoundly and transfers money to defense spending.”

Virginia’s shipbuilding industry might benefit from that arrangement, but Northern Virginia businesses supplying knowledge-based services to the federal government would take a huge hit, he said.

George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller estimates that if Trump’s budget were adopted, Northern Virginia would lose between 15,000 and 25,000 federal jobs, plus another 12,000 private-sector positions from lost federal-procurement spending, Connolly said. Including lost federal grants to local governments, the total damage would be up to $5 billion, or 1 percent of the region’s gross domestic product, he said.

Connolly, a former Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman who first was elected to Congress in 2008, said Trump’s proposal would cut 30 percent from the budgets of the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.

“We live in a troubled world, and diplomacy is the tool we have before we ‘go kinetic,’ before there’s military intervention,” he said.

Trump’s own Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, told Congress a few years ago, “If you cut the diplomatic budget, I’ve got to buy more bullets,” Connolly quoted.

Trump also has proposed cutting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent, including stripping funding from the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, Puget Sound and Appalachian Regional commissions, he said.

“That budget is very troubling in terms of the values it represents,” he said. “It is an enormous retreat in terms of domestic investments.”

Trump would cut money to the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control, the latter of which protects the public from pandemics, he said.

“This is really a retreat,” he said. “The good news is, on a bipartisan basis, it will be rejected. There’s no way that budget is ever going to become law. But the problem is, it becomes the new benchmark.”

House Republicans by a couple of votes passed a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the act’s fate now lies with the U.S. Senate. Connolly lamented that insurers might be allowed to opt out from covering people with pre-existing conditions, or charge them exorbitant premiums.

The wealthy 11th District would seem less likely to be harmed by the act’s repeal, but actually it would be the state’s hardest-hit, with about 45,000 people no longer covered by the health-care exchanges, he said.

The congressman had to leave the event early to attend hearings on Capitol Hill on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Investigations into the matter are just beginning, Connolly said.

Connolly lamented the White House’s unwillingness to communicate with Democrats on issues of national importance and contrasted this with President Reagan’s exemplary outreach efforts.

“I have not had a single phone call or e-mail or even accidental e-mail. Not one. And I’m a pretty senior member of both my committees,” he said.

Asked by an audience member about the country’s living beyond its means, Connolly said Presidents Reagan and Clinton raised taxes and ended up with strong economies. The U.S. government could reduce its debt significantly by empowering the Internal Revenue Service to go after uncollected taxes, he said.

The country must invest more in education, infrastructure and research and development, or watch as China surges ahead, he said.

Connolly was not all doom and gloom. At the start of his speech, he poked fun at his profession.

“Someone left their wallet on this table in front of four politicians,” he joked. “I’m just saying. Very trusting audience.”
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