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Biden Administration Recommends New Budget To Congress

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Biden wants Congress to raise spending on schools, climate and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is all part of his initial $1.5 trillion budget request, which was released this morning. Defense spending stays relatively flat.

NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow joins us to talk about this. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I just want to pause to note, we just never talk about bills that are merely worth billions of dollars anymore. We don't get excited until it's a trillion. So here's a $1.5 trillion budget request. What's it say?

DETROW: All about the trillions these days. And actually, this puts that last infrastructure proposal into context because that last infrastructure proposal was less than what Biden wants to spend on the federal budget going forward. This is just a recommendation. It's an initial one at that. The administration will roll out a much more detailed budget in the coming months. This here is the top-level declaration of the administration's funding priorities to give Congress some guidance. But there's still a lot in here, though.

Something President Biden has said repeatedly throughout his career is the phrase, don't show me your values; show me your budget, and I'll tell you your values. So this gives us a sense of what the administration wants the federal government to focus on.

INSKEEP: And so what do you learn about that?

DETROW: Well, a lot of recommendations here make a lot of sense if you've been listening to what Biden campaigned on, what he's focused on so far. He wants to see the federal government play a much more aggressive role than we have seen in recent decades. He wants to increase funding for schools, particularly poorer schools. He wants to see major increases in health care funding, research spending, overall CDC spending. Of course, the CDC has played an enormous role in the pandemic. Biden is also suggesting a $14 billion increase in various climate change efforts across federal agencies. And all of this spending would be in addition to that infrastructure plan that we've been talking about the past few weeks.

INSKEEP: Anything the president wants to cut?

DETROW: No major cuts proposed, but there is one key contrast. Department by department, you see some pretty significant spending increases suggested. Overall, on the non-military side, Biden would want to increase spending by 16%. But he is proposing relatively flat-line defense spending, an increase of little less than 2%.

INSKEEP: Which is a lot smaller than the increases during the Trump years, I guess we should mention.

DETROW: Yeah. President Trump often boasted about that fact, about increasing defense spending during his time in office. And Republicans often attack the Obama administration for not really prioritizing defense spending as much during all of those debt fights when there were spending caps in place. A Biden administration official briefing reporters this morning clearly saw those criticisms coming, arguing this is still an increase. Most of that extra money would go to pay raises for troops. Some other key differences from the Trump budgets - of course, there are a lot of differences between former President Trump and President Biden on priorities.

INSKEEP: True.

DETROW: One big one is foreign aid. You've heard, you know, President Biden talk a lot about foreign aid recently when it comes to the U.S.-Mexico border, saying it's important for the U.S. to spend more money on Central American countries to stabilize things there.

INSKEEP: I guess we should emphasize what it is that we're learning here - right? - because this is a first draft of a budget proposal that Congress will dispose of as it wants. And it's a closely divided Congress with lots to argue about.

DETROW: That's right. And you're going to see a later, more advanced budget. Of course, Biden and Democrats have control of both the House and the Senate, so a lot of Biden's priorities are making their way into Congress. It's not like there will be as intense debates with opposition members. But the administration really emphasized that you need to look at this proposal, the infrastructure proposal and this new bill that's coming in a few weeks that's all about, you know, family spending, paid family leave, things like that.

INSKEEP: NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow, thanks for the update. Really appreciate it.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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