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Trump transition team preparing budget featuring massive federal spending cuts

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to run the White House budget office (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The transition team for President-elect Donald Trump has been quietly putting together an aggressive budget over the last couple months that reportedly features massive cuts to federal agencies that have long been criticized by conservatives as examples of frivolous government spending. The budget team for Trump's transition effort has been headed by two longtime conservative spending hawks — Russ Vought, who has a reputation for ruffling moderate Republican feathers during his time at the conservative Heritage Foundation, and John Gray, a former staffer for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

According to The Hill, the budget in question includes provisions that have long been on conservative wish lists, including privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and major cuts to federal programs, especially in the departments of Commerce and Energy. The estimated total reduction in spending for the proposed budget is expected to top $10 trillion over 10 years.

The fly in the ointment for this plan is that it has not yet received the blessing of the incoming administration itself. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Trump's pick for Office of Management and Budget director, has not yet commented on the plan and is not expected to do so while he is awaiting confirmation by the Senate. However, Mulvaney is known as one of the more aggressive budget hawks in the House and is expected to endorse at least the broad outlines of the plan.

The bigger obstacle may be Trump himself, who has already thrown a wrench into other Republican priorities with his "shoot from the hip" style of policy-making. For instance, earlier this week Trump threw Republican leaders on Capitol Hill for a loop when he promised the replacement for Obamacare would feature insurance for everyone. Additionally, Trump has promised to vastly increase infrastructure spending during his first year in office, which may conflict with the proposed plan insofar as it actually features major cuts to the budget of the Department of Transportation.

More broadly, Trump has shown no indication in any of his public comments that major cuts to the federal budget are of central importance to his plans as president. While Trump has promised to aggressively cut waste, fraud and abuse — which constitutes an extraordinarily small portion of the federal budget — the kinds of wholesale program cuts proposed by his transition team will be bitterly opposed by Democrats and will likely cause serious political uneasiness among moderate members of the Republican caucus. It will likely take an aggressive political effort by Trump to push them through, and it is unclear whether Trump is willing to expend such effort on reforms that are not on his own personal front burner.

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