President Donald Trump has proposed slashing $2 billion in funding to the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration as part of a “mad dash” to secure funding for a Mexico border wall, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer.
The Senate minority leader on Sunday attacked the cuts — part of Trump’s “safety-last” mindset, he said — and warned of the various security programs that would be scrapped over funding constraints, exposing the country’s airports and seas to a higher risk of terrorism, he said.
“We know that terrorists are smart when they find weakness in a particular place, they look to punch holes in it,” Schumer said at a news conference in his Manhattan office. “And to slash these programs [is] awful.”
TSA’s budget would be cut by 11% while the Coast Guard’s budget would see a 14% decline, a combined total of $2 billion in lost funding through Trump’s prepared budget, according to Schumer.
Schumer outlined four TSA programs that would have to be cut. They include a program that trains flight crew members to use firearms to defend against hijackings; another security program that oversees the agency’s canine detection teams, which use dogs to aid in searches; grants to support local law enforcement agencies’ patrols in and around airports and a program that trains TSA agents to better identify travelers who pose threats.
The Coast Guard cuts would lead to the elimination of a tactical unit trained to be first responders to potential terrorist attacks and the cancellation of a contract with Huntington Ingalls Industries to build a new class of ship, which will save the federal government $500 million, according to Schumer.
“We don’t often think about what would happen if, God forbid, one of our ferries or part of our ports were taken over by terrorist attack,” Schumer continued.
A minimum of eight Democratic votes in the Senate would be required to achieve the 60 votes needed to enact the cuts, Schumer said.
The budget proposal could be voted on in the late spring, but Schumer said the White House might attempt to squeeze the cuts into the 2018 budget, which starts Oct. 1.
John Czwartacki, a spokesman at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said it’s premature to discuss budget details before a blueprint is officially released.
“The budget blueprint will be released in mid-March. It would be premature for us to comment on – or anyone to report – the specifics of this internal discussion before its publication,” said Czwartacki, in a statement. “The president and his cabinet are working collaboratively as we speak to create a budget that keeps the president’s promises to secure the country and prioritize taxpayer funds.”
Despite Trump’s claims that Mexico will pay for what Schumer described as an “impractical and unpopular” border wall, Schumer insisted that the administration is looking to find money for the wall through budget cuts.
“[The wall] must not be built on the back of national safety,” Schumer said. “The sad fact is this, slashing these vital programs at TSA and the Coast Guard actually means tearing down the wall of safety that protects New York, Long Island, and much of our state and country.
“We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul to build a wall,” said Schumer.