Among Biden’s first budget priorities: Climate, countering China

The US president’s first proposed budget marks sharp changes from Donald Trump’s spending priorities.

US President Joe Biden is proposing a $1.5 trillion federal budget [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

US President Joe Biden’s first annual budget plan unveiled on Friday asks Congress to shift defence spending to counter China, and sharply increase government funding to combat climate change and gun violence.

The $1.5 trillion budget proposes an eight percent increase in spending in the current year to invest in public transportation and environmental clean-ups while shifting priorities within defence spending.

Biden’s proposal, which serves as a blueprint for actual spending decisions by Congress, would slash funding for former President Donald Trump’s border wall and expand funding for background checks on gun sales.

Nearly three months into a job consumed by the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the document offers a view into Biden’s agenda and kickstarts a negotiation with Congress over what will ultimately be funded.

Biden would increase spending by $14bn across agencies to deal with the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, a shift from the Trump administration’s dismissal of climate science.

The president would spend millions on dealing with rising numbers of unaccompanied children showing up at the country’s southern border from Central America, including $861m to invest in that region.

Biden’s budget seeks an increase in funding for an investigation into immigration agents accused of “white supremacy”.

Among the biggest proposed increases is funding for schools in poorer neighbourhoods and on researching deadly diseases other than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden proposes to spend $6.5bn to launch a group leading targeted research into diseases from cancer to diabetes and Alzheimer’s, an offer that reflects Biden’s long desire to use government spending to create breakthroughs in medical research.

Biden requested $753bn for the Department of Defense, roughly even in inflation-adjusted terms with this year, and a compromise between liberals trying to impose cuts and hawks who want military spending to increase.

The money earmarked for the Pentagon aims to deter China, support modernising the nuclear missile inventory and build “climate resiliency” at military facilities.

Biden is proposing to shift US defence spending to counter a rising China [File: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo]

Biden’s budget outline provides only cursory figures on established programmes and departments where Congress has the flexibility to decide what it wants to spend for the fiscal year starting in October.

The proposal does not include Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal or changes in taxation, one administration official said. Those changes would be included in a full budget proposal to be submitted later.

The White House has been delayed in producing the annual budget document, blaming resistance from Trump administration political officials and denying that competing interests over issues like military funding played a role.

Discretionary spending accounted for $1.6 trillion, about a quarter of total federal spending, in the 2020 fiscal year. The rest is for areas deemed mandatory including social welfare benefits.

Each of the proposals is just the first step in a budgeting process that will ultimately be decided in the US House of Representatives and Senate, where Democrats hold bare majorities.

Biden withdrew his initial pick, Neera Tanden, to lead the Office of Management and Budget after she faced difficulty winning Senate approval. The office is currently run by acting director Shalanda Young.

Source: Reuters