President Donald Trump’s July Fourth extravaganza — featuring tanks, a military flyover, and a Trump speech at the Lincoln Memorial — cost an estimated $5.4 million, according to rough figures Thursday.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt provided the latest share of costs, $2.45 million for his agency, in a letter to lawmakers, saying his agency pulled money from operating funds for national parks, recreation fees, and another source to help fund Trump’s Salute to America.
The event included donated fireworks, a military flyover, and Trump’s speech to a rained-on crowd at the Lincoln Memorial.
Trump announced Monday he would do it all again next year , calling the event “remarkable.”
Democratic lawmakers have condemned the extra expenditures for the Independence Day celebration, which came in addition to the traditional concert, fireworks and events held at near the U.S. Capitol.
Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and one of several Democrats who had demanded a full cost accounting, said in response to Interior’s funding estimates that the public funds were spent to “celebrate President Trump.”
Bernhardt called the use of public funds justified, and cited past administrations’ spending for concerts, parades and other celebrations in and around the National Mall. Interior’s costs included crowd accommodations such as temporary fencing and portable toilets.
In addition, the Department of Defense says its costs came to $1.2 million. Despite repeated requests, the Pentagon as of Thursday refused to provide a precise breakdown.
The military’s efforts included positioning tanks on flat-bed trailers around the capital, meeting Trump’s desire for tanks while minimizing damage to district roads from the heavy armor.
Separately, Washington Mayor Muriel E. Bowser wrote Trump to say the district’s costs for Trump’s July Fourth event have drained a special fund used to provide security and protect the nation’s capital from terrorist threats.
The District of Columbia estimates it spent about $1.7 million — not including police expenses for related demonstrations.
Bowser wrote Trump that the fund will have a $6 million deficit by September, reminding the president that the account was never reimbursed for $7.3 million in expenses from Trump’s 2017 inauguration.
White House spokesman Judd Deere says officials will respond “in a timely manner.”
The Defense Department says the Veterans Day military parade ordered up by President Donald Trump won’t happen in 2018.
Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday that the military and the White House “have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”
The announcement came several hours after The Associated Press reported that the parade would cost about $92 million, according to U.S. officials citing preliminary estimates more than three times the price first suggested by the White House.
According to the officials, roughly $50 million would cover Pentagon costs for aircraft, equipment, personnel and other support for the November parade in Washington. The remainder would be borne by other agencies and largely involve security costs. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss early planning estimates that have not yet been finalized or released publicly.
Officials said the parade plans had not yet been approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Mattis himself said late Thursday that he had seen no such estimate and questioned the media reports.
The Pentagon chief told reporters traveling with him to Bogota, Colombia, that whoever leaked the number to the press was “probably smoking something that is legal in my state but not in most” — a reference to his home state of Washington, where marijuana use is legal.
He added: “I’m not dignifying that number ($92 million) with a reply. I would discount that, and anybody who said (that number), I’ll almost guarantee you one thing: They probably said, ‘I need to stay anonymous.’ No kidding, because you look like an idiot. And No. 2, whoever wrote it needs to get better sources. I’ll just leave it at that.”
The parade’s cost has become a politically charged issue, particularly after the Pentagon canceled a major military exercise planned for August with South Korea, in the wake of Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said the drills were provocative and that dumping them would save the U.S. “a tremendous amount of money.” The Pentagon later said the Korea drills would have cost $14 million.
Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said earlier Thursday that Defense Department planning for the parade “continues and final details are still being developed. Any cost estimates are pre-decisional.”
The parade was expected to include troops from all five armed services — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — as well as units in period uniforms representing earlier times in the nation’s history. It also was expected to involve a number of military aircraft flyovers.
A Pentagon planning memo released in March said the parade would feature a “heavy air component,” likely including older, vintage aircraft. It also said there would be “wheeled vehicles only, no tanks — consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure.” Big, heavy tanks could tear up streets in the District of Columbia.
The memo from Mattis’ office provided initial planning guidance to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His staff is planning the parade along a route from the White House to the Capitol and would integrate it with the city’s annual veterans’ parade. U.S. Northern Command, which oversees U.S. troops in North America, is responsible for the actual execution of the parade.
Earlier this year, the White House budget director told Congress that the cost to taxpayers could be $10 million to $30 million. Those estimates were likely based on the cost of previous military parades, such as the one in the nation’s capital in 1991 celebrating the end of the first Gulf War, and factored in some additional increase for inflation.
One veterans group weighed in Thursday against the parade. “The American Legion appreciates that our President wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops,” National Commander Denise Rohan said. “However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veteran Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”
Trump decided he wanted a military parade in Washington after he attended France’s Bastille Day celebration in the center of Paris last year. As the invited guest of French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump watched enthusiastically from a reviewing stand as the French military showcased its tanks and fighter jets, including many U.S.-made planes, along the famed Champs-Elysees.
Several months later Trump praised the French parade, saying, “We’re going to have to try and top it.”
Critics of GOP health care legislation got fresh ammunition from a report that estimates the bill would increase the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million people next year alone, and 24 million over a decade.
The findings from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could make prospects for the legislation backed by President Donald Trump even tougher, with a few House and Senate conservatives already in open revolt and moderate Republicans queasy about big cuts to the Medicaid safety net for the poor.
But with the legislation headed for votes in the House Budget Committee within days and floor action next week, its supporters at the White House and on Capitol Hill showed no sign of retreat. Instead, they attacked the parts of the CBO report they didn’t like, while touting the more favorable findings, including smaller deficits from their bill and lower premiums over time.
“I’m pretty encouraged by it, it actually exceeded my expectations,” House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said on Fox News Channel shortly after the report was released Monday evening.
Ryan said the CBO findings about millions losing coverage were to be expected, because the GOP legislation removes the penalty in former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act aimed at coercing people into buying coverage.
“If we’re not going to force someone to buy something they don’t want to buy they’re not going to buy it, and that’s kind of obvious,” Ryan said.
The GOP legislation would use tax credits to help consumers buy health coverage, expand health savings accounts, phase out an expansion of Medicaid and cap that program for the future, end some requirements for health plans under Obama’s law, and scrap a number of taxes.
Ryan pointed to other CBO figures, including that the GOP bill reduces federal deficits by $337 billion over a decade, and begins to bring down insurance premiums by around 10 percent starting in 2020, though that comes only after premiums sharply rise in 2018 and 2019.
Democrats scoffed at Ryan’s positive spin, calling the CBO analysis damning evidence that Republicans are interested only in giving hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the rich, which their bill would accomplish, while yanking health coverage from the poor.
“I hope they would pull the bill. It’s really the only decent thing to do,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said. “How can they look their constituents in the eye when they say to them ’24 million of you will no longer have coverage.'”
At the White House, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price rejected portions of the CBO’s findings, in comments that seemed to contradict Speaker Ryan.
“We believe that the plan that we’re putting in place is going to insure more individuals than currently are insured. So we think the CBO simply has it wrong,” Price said
It was unclear exactly what impact the CBO news would have on the debate. Republicans were already planning to move forward with no Democratic votes, aiming for action by the full House next week and the Senate the week after that. Senate prospects look particularly dicey, given the GOP’s slim 52-48 majority and vociferous objections from several Republicans including Rand Paul of Kentucky and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
Senators were just beginning to absorb the CBO findings Monday night. The approaching winter storm had delayed the arrival of House members to the Capitol.
“It’s awful. It has to be a concern,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said of the budget office findings. “President Trump said he wanted as many people covered as under Obamacare.”
“At the end of the day, we should pause and try to improve the product in light of the CBO analysis rather than just rejecting it,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Price planned to meet with GOP senators Tuesday to discuss the issue.
All along Republican leaders have assumed that once it comes time to vote, few if any Republicans will dare vote “no” on the repeal and replacement of “Obamacare” that their party has been promising for seven years. They are relying on Trump’s popularity with conservative voters to close the deal, and Trump on Monday announced he would be traveling to Kentucky for a rally early next week.
But the Congressional Budget report seemed likely to increase some Republicans’ discomfort with their approach, especially those representing states that expanded Medicaid coverage under Obama’s law. Roughly 14 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage over a decade as the GOP bill cuts $880 billion from the federal-state health program for the poor and disabled, the CBO said.
Trump pledged during the presidential campaign that he would not cut Medicaid, but the bill would violate that pledge, as well as fail to meet Trump’s stated goal of “insurance for everybody.”
The CBO report also undercuts a central argument that Trump and other Republicans have cited for swiftly rolling back Obama’s health care overhaul: that the health insurance markets created under the 2010 law are unstable and about to implode. The congressional experts said that largely would not be the case and the market for individual health insurance policies “would probably be stable in most areas either under current law or the (GOP) legislation.”
Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Alan Fram, Stephen Ohlemacher, Mary Clare Jalonick, Richard Lardner and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.
Health insurance shoppers may wind up with more options to choose from but less help buying a policy under a new Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.
A plan unveiled Monday in the House of Representatives shifts more responsibility for finding affordable coverage to the individual, and away from the government.
Whether the plan becomes law is far from a sure thing — it immediately drew criticism across the political spectrum, and it could change or fail as it makes its way through Congress.
“This is just a first step in what is likely going to be an intense and noisy process,” Stifel health insurance analyst Thomas Carroll said in a research note.
And neither the government’s current plan nor the plan offered by Republicans seems capable of addressing the larger problem, the rising cost of health care that is translating into higher insurance rates, experts say.
“No politician can save you from that,” said Dan Mendelson, CEO of the consulting firm Avalere Health.
But the draft offers the first look at how Republicans want to change the government’s role in delivering health care. Here’s a look at the possible impact:
WILL I PAY MORE FOR INSURANCE?
You might, because you could receive less help from the government.
The Affordable Care Act provides tax credits based on how much money you make to help take the sting out of paying for insurance. The new proposal provides tax credits that are based mainly on your age. These may offer less support for people with low incomes than the current system.
On the other hand, because the new proposal allows for a broader range of insurance plans, it could mean that people may have a better chance of finding a plan they can afford.
WHO WILL THIS HELP OR HURT THE MOST?
Younger, healthier people may have cheaper coverage options, but costs could climb for older patients with chronic conditions and people with low incomes.
The ACA provided subsidies that helped many people with chronic conditions pay out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles, the amount a person has to pay toward care before most insurance coverage starts. Those subsidies could be eliminated under the Republican plan. There’s an option for states to provide such subsidies, but it’s not yet clear how those would work.
And lower-income people may struggle to pay their premiums, the amount due each month for care, because they would get less help from the government.
For example, under the Republican plan, a 41-year-old customer of the insurer Molina Healthcare who earns $20,000 would receive a $3,000 tax credit toward a $4,300 annual premium for one of the company’s plans. That would leave the customer with a bill of $1,300 if there were no cheaper plan available. Under the current system, the government would cover nearly the entire cost of that plan.
WILL THERE BE MORE PLANS TO CHOOSE FROM?
The Republican proposal loosens restrictions on the coverage insurers can offer. That could mean a wider variety of plans, including options with lower prices.
But customers would need to read closely: Plans may come with high out-of-pocket costs like deductibles or narrow networks that exclude the family doctor. The plan may also have less robust coverage of things like mental health care. Those particulars remain far from settled and will probably vary depending on state requirements.
WHAT’S THE PENALTY IF I DON’T SIGN UP?
The Republican plan ends the fines that people have to pay under the ACA if they don’t buy coverage, the so-called individual mandate. But there’s a catch. If people let their insurance lapse for 63 days in the year before they sign up for coverage, insurers could charge these customers 30 percent more for coverage.
WILL MORE INSURERS PARTICIPATE?
That depends on whether lawmakers can fix the insurance exchanges that are leading to large losses for some insurers.
The Republican plan does give insurers something high on their wish list: the chance to offer a wider variety of plans, which might attract younger and healthier customers.
But insurers also are worried that removing the mandate means people will only buy coverage when they are sick, and that makes it very hard for insurers to make money. J. Mario Molina, CEO of Molina Healthcare, said he doesn’t think the 30 percent surcharge is enough of a penalty to entice healthy people to buy insurance.
“I don’t think there’s anything in the bill that makes the market more attractive (for insurers),” Molina said.
AP reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s U.S. military buildup plan would cost hundreds of billions of dollars – but with no apparent strategy, defense experts from across the political spectrum said on Thursday.
“I haven’t seen any kind of strategy,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. “He (Trump) says nobody is going to challenge us because we will be so strong. But that’s not a strategy. It’s just a kind of wish-fulfillment.”
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, a top Trump backer who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the proposal was based on recommendations from groups such as the National Defense Panel and served as a statement of Trump’s commitment to build the military.
“I believe this lays out a framework for rebuilding the military, and it represents a commitment by Donald Trump to make this a priority,” Sessions said in an interview. “If you don’t have presidential leadership really defending the need for a robust national defense, you’re not going to maintain the defense budget.”
Trump’s proposal, unveiled in a speech on Wednesday, did not spell out how he would accommodate the additional manpower and hardware as the United States shutters military bases, or where and for what purposes the larger forces would be employed. There were no cost estimates and Trump proposed revenue-raising steps that budget experts called insufficient.
“He just called for higher defense spending without giving us a number and without telling us how he is going to pay for it,” said Lawrence Korb, a former Reagan administration Pentagon official and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think tank aligned with the Obama administration.
Trump’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 8 election, Hillary Clinton, advocates tough defense and foreign policies, but has yet to take a stand on the size of the Pentagon budget.
Stephen Miller, a Trump policy adviser, said Trump’s proposal came in contrast to Clinton, who he said has “no military plan.”
Trump pledged to expand the Army to 540,000 active-duty troops from its current 480,000, increase the Marine Corps from 23 to 36 battalions – or as many as 10,000 more Marines – boost the Navy from 276 to 350 ships and submarines, and raise Air Force tactical aircraft from 1,100 to 1,200.
Trump said those numbers were based on assessments by the conservative Heritage Foundation and other groups. Heritage said in a report that it looked at the capacity needed to handle two major wars to determine its force-size recommendations.
Trump said he would bolster the development of missile defenses and cyber capabilities. He made no mention of U.S. nuclear forces already in the midst of a modernization effort that will cost an estimated $1 trillion over 30 years.
To pay for the buildup, Trump said he would ask Congress to lift a Pentagon budget cap and “fully offset” the increased costs by collecting unpaid taxes, cutting appropriations for federal programs operating without congressional reauthorization, cracking down on social welfare fraud and other fraud, and collecting additional taxes and fees from increased energy production.
‘SOFT-PEDALING’ THE COST
Writing in The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, Tom Donnelly, a defense scholar at the American Enterprise Institute think tank who opposes Trump’s election, praised Trump for embracing a buildup that many mainstream Republicans advocate.
“However, Trump undercut the power of his proposals by soft-pedaling the cost of such a buildup,” he wrote.
Harrison said that increase could be achieved only by raising the federal budget deficit, raising taxes, or cutting other spending, such as benefits programs for seniors and the poor. “None of those things are politically popular,” he said.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that lifting the cap would cost $450 billion over 10 years. The revenue-generating steps proposed by Trump would leave $150 billion of that amount uncovered, it said.
Another flaw in Trump’s plan is the assumption that Republican members of the House of Representatives who belong to the deficit-fighting tea party movement would agree to end the budget cap.
In April, Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley told a Senate committee that adding more soldiers without a sufficient budget would be disastrous for the country and the Army. Bases would close and programs that support troops and their families would have to be curtailed to make up the shortfall, he said.
The Navy already has launched a shipbuilding program to raise the number of vessels to more than 300 by 2021. Trump’s plan fails to account for the country’s limited shipbuilding capacity and the cost of manning, maintaining and basing the additional warships he proposes to build.
“The whole thing is unrealistic,” said Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon’s top financial official under former President George W. Bush. Zakheim, who opposes a Trump presidency, estimates that Trump’s plan would boost defense spending by roughly $300 billion over five years. “It’s a soundbite,” he said.