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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration announced on Monday it is requesting $686 billion in defense spending for FY 2019, the highest military budget request since 2011. The funding is intended to make up gaps in readiness that military officials say have resulted from mandatory military spending cuts enacted into law in 2011.The $686 billion request consists of a “base” operating budget of $617 billion, as well as the $69 billion requested for Overseas Contingency Operations that funds U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Europe.The addition of $30 billion requested for the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons makes the total national security budget request $716 billion, the top line agreed to by Congress last week for fiscal year 2019.That congressional approval in military spending for next year along with an approved $700 billion for 2018 provides a level of stability for military budget planners not seen since the 2011 Budget Control Act went into effect. That amount was also a significant increase over the administration’s original request last May for $639 billion for 2018.That legislation set mandatory lower budget levels for military spending that the Pentagon has criticized for years as having a negative potential impact on its readiness."Our military was totally depleted, and we will have a military like we've never had before," said President Donald Trump on Monday. "We're going to have an incredible military."Though the budget request enables the annual purchase of big-ticket weapons systems, its focus is on making up the readiness gap by approving additional funding for training, maintenance and modernization of equipment.Congress will still have to pass individual appropriations bills for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.The message from Pentagon officials on Monday was that the new budget lines up with the recently released National Defense Strategy and National Security Strategy that re-focused attention on "great power" competition with Russia and China."This is a strategy-based budget, the strategy determined what we looked at," said David L. Norquist, the comptroller for the Defense Department. "It determined the choices that the department made, and it determined the level of funding requested and required."The budget also continues increases to the size of the military services, totaling 24,100 additional active-duty service members next year, the majority in the Army and Navy. In 2018, Congress required that the military services increase in size by 16,600 active duty personnel.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration's proposed budget for the State Department that was rolled out Monday has two things in common with last year's proposal: It calls for a one-third cut to the agency and the U.S. Agency for International Diplomacy — and it's being dismissed already."This is not a serious proposal and Congress should do as it did last year: ignore it," said the ONE Campaign's North America executive director in a statement."The Administration should stop wasting the time of Congress and the American people with such narrow-minded, illogical proposals that have been rejected by nonpartisan military and civilian leaders," said Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.Even Republicans in Congress agree."A strong, bipartisan coalition in Congress has already acted once to stop deep cuts to the State Department and Agency for International Development that would have undermined our national security," House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement. "This year, we will act again."Other key Republican foreign policy players like Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker or Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations Chair Lindsey Graham have not put out statements as of Monday evening.Still, the budget sends a message — and at State, it's that the White House still thinks it's a time to cut back."The general messaging for this budget is to still restrain non-defense discretionary spending," Doug Pitkin, director of the agency's Bureau of Budget and Planning, told reporters, adding that the budget Congress passed for the agency last year was unsustainable.The total budget proposal for State and USAID is $39.3 billion.That figure is $200 million more than last year's proposal — a 4.5 percent increase that Pitkin celebrated as "positive" — but over $15 billion short of what Congress ended up funding in FY18 — about $55 million. Among the cuts are an approximately 40 percent decrease to democracy promotion efforts and a 44 percent decrease to the U.S.'s contribution to United Nations peacekeeping missions, although the U.S. has determined which ones will face the steepest cuts yet.Despite threats by Trump and Nikki Haley, the U. S. ambassador to the United Nations, there were no cuts specifically for countries that voted against the U.S. and its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital at the UN in December."There's nothing specific just tied to that because that is only one factor," Director of State's Office of US Foreign Assistance Resources Hari Sastry told ABC News.This year's proposal also saw some increases, including a new $20 million fund to the Global Engagement Center's Disinformation Programs to counter state-sponsored disinformation campaigns by the likes of Russia and increasing embassy security and construction funds by over $515 million.That jump is not just to boost security after the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, but also because of the Trump administration's plans for a new embassy in Jerusalem."The construction of a U.S. Embassy facility in Jerusalem will be among the Department’s highest priority for capital security investments in FY 2018 and FY 2019," according to the proposal.There are also new funds for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's redesign of the department. After a listening tour and survey of the agency's employees, the project that Tillerson has described as his most important work as secretary, above peace in the Middle East or dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program, is moving into a second phase of implementation.The reform project has generated fierce criticism of Tillerson inside and outside the organization, with critics accusing him of "hollowing out" the department or sinking morale.In particular, the budget proposal calls for $96.2 million for the Human Capital and Data Analytics Initia
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  • Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said the $4.4 trillion budget proposed by the White House would increase the federal deficit and would not balance the budget."Does it balance? No it doesn't," Mulvaney told reporters on Monday. "I couldn't tell you using solid numbers that we could balance the budget in 10 years."Mulvaney said that the fiscal year 2019 budget offered Monday should be seen as a messaging document — and not as a directive from the administration on how Congress should allot funding during a briefing with reporters at the White House.The White House's budget increases defense spending with a request for $686 billion for 2019, while making cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as SNAP.Also included in the budget is $23 billion for border security, with much of that money going to fund Trump's border wall. Mulvaney said his office operated under the assumption that Congress will actually make a deal on helping extend protections for the the thousands of young undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers". Part of that deal, Trump has said, must include money to pay for a the wall along the Mexico- U.S. border.Mulvaney highlighted some of the new ideas the administration is proposing under the new budget.For example, the budget calls for the SNAP program under the USDA to introduce a initiative that would operate similar to "Blue Apron" food delivery services, in which the government would provide healthy, boxed up food items to people currently using food stamps.He touted the administration's work on trying to reduce the cost of drug prices and end the opioid epidemic. To lower drug prices, Mulvaney said the budget directs the FDA to push for more generic drugs, so drugs like EpiPen can be offered at a more affordable price."There's a major commitment from us here to increase the flow of generics," said Mulvaney.To combat the opioid epidemic, the administration is asking for $3 billion in funding this year and $10 billion next year. Part of that funding would go towards expanding medical services for people facing addiction and adding coverage of substance abuse treatment to Medicare.On Tuesday, Mulvaney takes the budget to Capitol Hill where it's unlikely to be well received by deficit hawks. Mulvaney, a former Tea Party Republican, said on CBS News on Monday that if he were still in Congress, it's not something he would support."I will always be a deficit hawk," said Mulvaney. "I am today, I was yesterday, I am tomorrow...these are the cards we've been dealt."
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  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The official portraits of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery Monday, break with tradition just as the Obama presidency did.The artists, both in their 40s, are the first African Americans to paint official portraits for the museum and both have dedicated their careers to showcasing people of color in unique ways.Amy Sherald, an artist from Baltimore, painted Michelle Obama’s portrait. She’s known for painting skin tones in grayscale — a way to “subversively” comment on race, she says — and incorporates color in clothing and backgrounds. In it, Obama wears a dress with patterns similar to quilts made by women in Gee’s Bend, a remote, black community in Alabama.Michelle Obama said she knew she was going to select Sherald just a few sentences into their first conversation.“She came in and she looked at Barack and she said, ‘Mr. President, I’m really excited to meet you and I know I’m being considered for both portraits’,” Obama recounted. But then Sherald turned to face her, saying,“'I’m really hoping that you and I can work together'.”As they continued talking, “Barack kind of faded into the woodwork,” Obama joked.And in the end, the former president had nothing but praise for Sherald and her work.“Amy, I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace, beauty, intelligence, charm and hotness of the woman I love,” he said to laughter from the crowd.Kehinde Wiley, an artist from South Central Los Angeles, was selected to paint the former president’s portrait. He’s famous for his depictions of African American men replacing famous figures in scenes out of Western art, such as Napoleon crossing the Alps on horseback, to point out how people of color have been missing in historical portraiture.“We had an immediate connection with the two artists who are sitting here today,” the former president said.And the message, from the artist to the presidential subjects, was clear: Among the 1,600 presidential portraits in the museum, these portraits would emphasize that there’s a place for people of color.“What I was always struck by whenever I saw [Wiley’s] portraits was the degree to which they challenge our conventional views of power and privilege … recognizing the beauty and the grace and the dignity of people who are so often invisible in our lives,” Barack Obama said.“Kehinde lifted them up and gave them a platform and said they belong in the center of American life and that was something that moved me deeply,” Obama said. “In my small way, that's part of what I believe politics should be about — not simply celebrating the high and the mighty, expecting that the country unfolds from the top down - but rather it comes from the bottom up.”Wiley’s portrait of Obama is different from his other works, however. It doesn’t elevate the subject, mount him on horseback or compare him to Napoleon. The subject, the first African American president, made history on his own.Obama sits in a chair, the backdrop covered in flowers. There are chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago; jasmine, a flower of Hawaii — where Obama grew up; and African blue lilies for the president’s father’s roots in Kenya.Though Wiley’s portraits are typically set against a bright, detailed background as in Obama’s portrait, the president joked that he persuaded Wiley to otherwise tone it down.“His initial impulse in the work may have been to elevate me and put me in these settings with partridges, scepters ... mounting me on horses. I had to explain that I’ve got enough political problems without you making me look like the Pope,” Obama joked. “We’ve got to bring it down just a t
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In a rare move, the Senate will launch an unusual process late Monday afternoon to debate a legislative fix for the hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers who could face deportation come March 5.The process calls for a free-for-all debate on the Senate floor with an unlimited number of amendments that can be offered, all in the hopes Republicans and Democrats can reach a bipartisan solution in the contentious immigration debate.“I expect that virtually every issue under the sun will come up during this floor debate and that's fine,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters last week. “That's the way the Senate always used to operate, that is a good way to legislate.”The fate of Dreamers has riled Republicans and Democrats across the political spectrum. In January, the federal government briefly shut down, with both sides refusing to budge on the Dreamer issue despite weeks of negotiating.At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised Democrats a debate and a vote on Dreamers should the government remain open and funded.McConnell has kept his word and last week told reporters the debate this week would be “fair to everyone in the Senate.”“Whoever gets to 60 votes wins,” he said. “And it will be an opportunity for 1,000 flowers to bloom.”The move is seen as a rare gamble by the usually cautious McConnell, because it’s not clear what the end result will be.McConnell’s position on the various proposals is also uncertain, but his decision to open the Senate floor up to debate has already won the approval of some Democrats.“I think that Mitch McConnell has been a champ to say we're gonna do the process, we're gonna let amendments be offered, and whatever gets 60 votes will be what passes,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said last week.Some senators involved in a bipartisan working group, which includes more than two dozen senators, have said they are optimistic they can come to some sort of a moderate solution to help Dreamers avoid deportation, but they acknowledge they haven’t reached a consensus on what the legislative framework should look like.“If we're gonna do this in this short period of time, this can't be viewed as comprehensive immigration reform,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said last week following a working group meeting.“It's got to be a more narrow field, and then we can all talk about comprehensive immigration,” he said.The bipartisan working group has signaled that, so far, a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and enhanced border security are on the table.But another group of conservative Republican senators want to take it a step further, by mirroring the framework the Trump administration has called for, including ending “chain family migration” and the diversity visa lottery program. Their proposal also includes a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers and $25 billion for border security.“President Trump has been very clear on what he will sign into law, and this is it,” Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said in a statement. “This is a great deal and the only solution that fully addresses the four pillars in the President’s framework.”During an infrastructure event at the White House Monday morning, Trump touted his position on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program he moved to end, which puts the fate of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children into peril."We have our military taken care of, we start very serious DACA talks today," Trump said. "We are -- I can tell you, speaking for the Republican party, we love to do DACA. We want border security."The Senate is expected to act before, and independently of, the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan has promised lawmakers he’d tackle a solution for Dreamers upon successful package o
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