Are big budget cuts ahead for government agencies under the Trump administration? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E News reporter Robin Bravender discusses which agencies and offices could be hit the hardest and how lawmakers might respond.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. Are big budget cuts ahead for government agencies under the Trump administration? E&E News reporter Robin Bravender has taken a look at this in a new Greenwire story that is running today. Robin, thank you for joining me.
Robin Bravender: Thanks for having me.
Monica Trauzzi: So, Robin, you've looked at conservative budgets from the Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute's, the CEI, and the Republican Study Committee. What agencies could see some big cuts?
Robin Bravender: We could see big cuts across the domestic policy agencies. EPA, DOE and Interior could all see big cuts. EPA is perhaps the most obvious one. Donald Trump has been most obvious that he wants to make some cuts there. We could see cuts in the climate programs there. Over at DOE, we could see cuts to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. In terms of public lands, some of the budget outlines say that we shouldn't have a net increase in public lands, which would affect the Interior Department.
Monica Trauzzi: And at this point, are staffers feeling nervous? What are you hearing from inside the agencies?
Robin Bravender: Absolutely. Right now there's just a lot of uncertainty. Folks don't know where they'll be working or if they'll have a job in the next couple of years, so a lot of trepidation about folks' futures in their jobs.
Monica Trauzzi: I know you spoke with Myron Ebell yesterday and he had sort of predicted some very big cuts. How feasible is that?
Robin Bravender: So he told me yesterday he was the head of the EPA transition team under Trump. He's now back at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Speaking for himself, but he said he'd like to see EPA's staff cut from 15,000, which is its current staffing level, down to about 5,000, which got a lot of negative reactions from EPA yesterday, but you know, he's saying Donald Trump said on the campaign trail he might like to eliminate the EPA entirely, although he's since walked back from that. So we could see some big cuts at EPA. If not that far, it's unlikely it'll get down to the 5,000 number.
Monica Trauzzi: The Trump budget is important. What makes it so significant?
Robin Bravender: Any incoming administration, their first budget gives a chance to sort of see what they want to do broadly and then also the nitty-gritty of specific offices that might get cut. When Obama came in, he suggested cap-and-trade revenue in his first budget, so that ultimately didn't happen. We didn't see a climate bill from Congress, but we definitely saw that he wanted to take big actions on climate change, which he did in other ways.
Monica Trauzzi: So Congress ultimately will be the decider on the budget here. If there are these proposed aggressive cuts, how will Congress act?
Robin Bravender: You know, every member of Congress has their own constituency, their own desires of what they want to see in the budget, so it won't be as simple as the Trump administration putting out their budget and Congress going along with it. So there will be fights. There will be stakeholders who want to see some of these agency offices kept intact. Environmentalists will put up a fight if they try to cut climate change programs or things like that, but ultimately with two Republican chambers of Congress right now, there's a good chance that a lot of the Trump initiatives from his budget will wind up getting through.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, good reporting, great story that's running in Greenwire.
Robin Bravender: Thanks.
Monica Trauzzi: Thanks for joining me.
Robin Bravender: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
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