HURON – President Trump’s proposed $4.1 trillion federal budget that would make deep cuts to food stamps, Medicaid and crop insurance while setting aside funding for his controversial border wall with Mexico is a “messaging platform” that will face a reality check when Congress writes its own budget, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said Thursday.
The president’s budget as proposed should be viewed as the administration’s opinion as to its priorities and not as a working document, he said in a conference call with reporters.
While Rounds said he does agree with Trump on the need to beef up funding for defense and infrastructure projects, they should not come at the expense of crop insurance or the essential air service program.
Crop insurance is necessary as a safety net for America’s farmers so the country can have an inexpensive food policy, he said.
Meanwhile, Rounds has introduced a bill calling for more than $150 billion in tax cuts across the board, saying he thinks it would find its way into the economy when people spend the money.
Presidents Kennedy and Reagan used the same approach to build the economy by jump-starting it, Rounds said.
“I think we need to do something to get this economy rolling again,” he said.
Rounds said he would prefer to see a comprehensive overhaul of the 74,000-page tax code, but expects there to be more of an incremental approach.
“I am interested in making a down payment on it,” he said, explaining his bill introduced on Wednesday.
It would not change the tax code, but would call for a reduction of two points in the tax rate.
Rounds also wants to see decreases in federal regulations that are costing $1.9 trillion a year.
Asked about the Congressional Budget Office projection that the health care bill passed by House Republicans would leave another 23 million people without health insurance, Rounds said CBO estimates are sometimes difficult to prove.
The logic behind the CBO figure, in part, reflects the fact that the House plan doesn’t mandate that individuals buy insurance like the Affordable Care Act does, he said.
Also, because of changes in Medicaid funding, some of those 23 million people could be impacted by that, he said.
“We just don’t put a lot of stock in it but we still recognize that is part of their job,” Rounds said.
The biggest issue Republicans are concerned about is not reflected in the CBO report, but is something Rounds and others have been emphasizing – increases in the price of the ACA product, up about 100 percent since 2013 across the nation.
In South Dakota, the ACA will increase another 40 percent next year, he said.
“What they’re not talking about is what happens if we don’t do anything,” Rounds said. “That’s not taken into account.”
People did not necessarily ask to be insured under ACA, but it’s what they have been given, he said.
“We want to fix this system before it hurts more people,” Rounds said.
But he also said, as he has in recent weeks, that it will take a transition period of a few years to come up with a long-term fix for health care.