Andrew Taylor

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is proposing immediate budget cuts of $18 billion from programs like medical research, infrastructure and community grants so U.S. taxpayers, not Mexico, can cover the down payment on the border wall.

The White House documents were submitted to Congress amid negotiations over a catchall spending bill that would avert a partial government shutdown at the end of next month. The package would wrap up $1.1 trillion in unfinished spending bills and address the Trump administration’s request for an immediate $30 billion in additional Pentagon spending.

The latest Trump proposal, disclosed Tuesday, would eliminate $1.2 billion in National Institutes of Health research grants, a favorite of both parties. The community development block grant program, also popular, would be halved, amounting to a cut of $1.5 billion, and Trump would strip $500 million from a popular grant program for transportation projects.

Like Trump’s 2018 proposed budget, which was panned by both Democrats and Republicans earlier this month, the proposals have little chance of being enacted.

But they could create bad political optics for the struggling Trump White House, since the administration asked earlier for $3 billion to pay for the Trump’s controversial U.S.-Mexico border wall and other immigration enforcement plans. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for the wall, a claim the country has disputed.

“The administration is asking the American taxpayer to cover the cost of a wall — unneeded, ineffective, absurdly expensive — that Mexico was supposed to pay for, and he is cutting programs vital to the middle class to get that done,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Build the wall or repair or build a bridge or tunnel or road in your community? What’s the choice?”

The roster of cuts were sent to Capitol Hill as a set of options for GOP aides and lawmakers crafting a catchall spending bill for the ongoing budget year, which ends Sept. 30.