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White House Proposes Immediate Cuts To Pell Grants, HIV Research, Food Assistance

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- The Trump Administration isn't waiting until 2018 to try to slash federal spending that it has deemed unnecessary.

The White House is proposing an immediate $18 billion in cuts to government programs that promote education, scientific research, health, job training and diplomacy, programs already approved for 2017.

On Tuesday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) railed against the proposal to slash discretionary spending bills in 2017 through a reduction of funding for Pell Grants, HIV/AIDS research, and many other domestic and international programs.

Lee described parts of the president's proposal, which was sent to Capitol Hill on Friday and leaked to the public, as "morally bankrupt." The memo was first reported by Politico on Tuesday.

Lee, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, drew attention to proposed cuts of nearly $350 million to the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and HIV/AIDS programs, warning, "President Trump's proposed reductions to PEPFAR and other HIV/AIDS programs would be a humanitarian catastrophe."

The White House also wants Congress to cut roughly $1.2 billion in funding to the National Institutes of Health this year.

Lee said the accomplishments of Congress threaten to be undone so that "President Trump can line the pockets of defense contractors."

The proposal to cut programs in 2017 comes roughly a week after the White House unveiled a $1.15 trillion budget for next year, FY 2018, that slashes many domestic and international programs while recommending a $54 billion increase in defense spending.

The White House's 2017 budget recommendations includes a $1.3 billion reduction in Pell Grants, the government subsidy to help students with financial need afford college.

"This'll make it even harder for low-income students to graduate," Lee said on Twitter.

The Trump administration also proposes a $1.2 billion cut to a teacher grant program.

In California, the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund is also being recommended by the White House for complete defunding.

The program, according to NOAA's website, "is essential to preventing the extinction of the 28 listed salmon and steelhead species on the West Coast and, in many cases, has stabilized the populations and contributed to their recovery course."

Other programs that the White House is asking to be eliminated are grants to community banks and a FEMA program countering violent extremism.

Additionally, the President wants a $72 million cut in funds for United Nations peacekeeping efforts, a $50 million reduction in Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program funding, and an $11 million decrease in funding for the Minority Health Office.

Among the the most controversial items is a recommendation to cut $200 million from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food assistance program, which was founded in 1974 to provide a safeguard for families who are at nutritional risk.

A $500 million cut to global food programs was also proposed by the White House, which includes the Food for Peace program and the McGovern-Dole Food For Education Program.

Additionally, the White House proposed a $1.5 billion cut from Community Development Block Grants, which funds Meals on Wheels, provides disaster relief and helps people become homeowners.

A $372 million cut to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program has also been proposed by the president, raising concerns that some families will face trouble come the winter months.

Programs including AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps would be almost completely defunded under the White House's proposed 2017 budget.

Lee called the 2017 budget recommendations from the president "dangerous, cruel & destructive."

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement Tuesday that the document detailing cuts proposed by the Trump Administration for FY 2017 was not shared by the Office of Management and Budget directly with his office or the offices of other Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee.

Leahy described the cuts proposed in the document as "draconian" and said, "Cutting cancer research, slashing affordable housing and programs to protect the environment, and making middle class taxpayers pay for a wall ... These may be the Trump administration priorities, but they aren't the priorities of the American people."

There's no indication yet that the White House's 2017 budget recommendations will be taken into consideration by members of Congress.

UPDATE: On 3/30/17: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, "I think his funding requests and priorities are laid out in the budget that Director Mulvaney detailed and sent up for the remainder of 2017. There are some key things in that, and I think that it is going to begin a conversation that we will continue to have with the House and Senate. Obviously, we don't want the government to shut down, but we want to make sure that we're funding the priorities of the government."

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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