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Trump Signs Major Public Lands, Conservation Bill Into Law

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed a wide-ranging public lands bill that creates five new national monuments and expands several national parks.

The legislation enacted Tuesday also permanently adds 1.3 million acres of new wilderness and reauthorizes the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects nationwide. It’s the largest public lands bill Congress has considered in a decade, and it won large bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate.

More than 100 land and water conservation bills were combined to designate more than 350 miles of river as wild and scenic. Nearly 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas were also created under the measure.

The new law also withdraws 370,000 acres in Montana and Washington state from mineral development.

Trump Administration

Trump Nominates Stephen Moore To Federal Reserve Board

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he will nominate Stephen Moore, a prominent conservative economist, to fill a vacancy on the Federal Reserve’s seven-member board.

Moore served as an economic adviser to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, helping to draft Trump’s tax cut plan. There are currently two vacancies on the Fed board.

The president was harshly critical of the Fed’s rate hikes last year and has continued to criticize actions by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell even after the central bank this week announced it expected no rate hikes this year.

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Senate Confirms Controversial Judge Neomi Rao To Fill Vacant Kavanaugh Appeals Court Seat

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Brett Kavanaugh on a high-profile appeals court.

Senators voted 53-46 to confirm White House official Neomi Rao for a seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Rao, 45, heads the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, where she plays a key role in Trump’s efforts to roll back federal rules and regulations. She also worked in the George W. Bush White House but has never tried a case in state or federal court.

Trump nominated Rao for the seat left vacant when Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court last fall.

Lawmakers from both parties expressed concerns about her past writings about sexual assault. Rao distanced herself from language used as an undergraduate.

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Inside Trump’s Proposed $4.7 Trillion Budget Request

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s $4.7 trillion budget request proposes steep cuts to domestic spending, a funding boost for the Pentagon and $8.6 billion for his signature border wall with Mexico. Leading Democrats immediately rejected the plan, signaling another bruising fight just weeks after a standoff that led to a 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.

A look at the highlights from the White House proposal.

BORDER WALL FIGHT RENEWED

Trump’s proposal for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 includes $8.6 billion to build the U.S-Mexico border wall. The proposal shows Trump is eager to renew his confrontation with Congress over the wall, a centerpiece of his agenda that congressional Democrats have staunchly resisted.

The budget request for more than 300 miles of new border wall would more than double the $8.1 billion potentially available to the president for the wall after Trump declared a national emergency at the border last month. The politically contentious declaration would circumvent Congress, although there’s no guarantee Trump will be able to use the money in the face of a legal challenge from California and other states. Lawmakers from both parties oppose the emergency declaration, but Congress appears to lack a veto-proof margin to block Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump “was forced to admit defeat” after Congress refused to fund the wall in the current budget, and they predicted a similar outcome if he continues to press for money for the wall. Money targeted for the wall “would be better spent on rebuilding America,” they said.

BIG BOOST FOR DEFENSE, CUTS IN DOMESTIC SPENDING

TRUMP 2020 BUDGET

Trump’s budget proposes increasing defense spending to $750 billion — and building the new Space Force as a military branch — while reducing nondefense accounts by 5 percent. The $2.7 trillion in proposed domestic spending cuts over the next decade is higher than any administration in history. Proposed cuts include economic safety-net programs used by millions of Americans.

To stay within prescribed budget caps, the proposal shifts about $165 billion in defense spending to an overseas contingency fund, an action critics view as an accounting gimmick.

RED INK FLOWS

Under Trump’s proposal, the budget deficit is projected to hit $1.1 trillion next year — the highest in a decade. The administration is counting on robust economic growth, including from the 2017 Republican tax cuts, to push down the red ink. Some economists say the economic bump from the tax cuts is waning, and they project slower growth in coming years. The national debt is $22 trillion.

Even with his own projections, Trump’s budget would not come into balance for a decade and a half, rather than the traditional hope of balancing in 10 years.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, warned that the debt load will lead to slower income growth and stalled opportunities for Americans.

ENVIRONMENTAL SPENDING SLASHED

Trump again is asking Congress to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by about a third, a request that Congress has previously rejected. The budget request seeks $6.1 billion for the EPA, down 31 percent from current spending. The White House says it aims to ensure clean air and water and chemical safety, while “reducing regulatory burden and eliminating lower-priority activities.”

But Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group says it would work to appease Trump’s political base and boost the fossil fuel and chemical industries.

REPEALING OBAMACARE — AGAIN

The budget request would re-open two health care battles Trump already lost in his first year in office: repealing “Obamacare” and limiting future federal spending on Medicaid for low-income people. Under the budget, major sections of both the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid would be turned over to the states starting in 2021.

With Democrats in charge of the House, Trump’s grand plan has no chance of being enacted. And few Republican lawmakers want to be dragged into another health care fight.

EDUCATION CUT, SCHOOL CHOICE EXPANDED

The budget request would cut Education Department funding by 10 percent while expanding money for school choice, school safety and apprenticeship programs. The $64 billion proposal would eliminate 29 programs, including a $2 billion program meant to help schools improve instruction and a $1.2 billion program to create community centers.

Meanwhile, it would add $60 million for charter schools and $200 million for school safety initiatives.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says the plan would end programs better handled at the state or local level. She also proposed up to $5 billion in federal tax credits to support school choice scholarships.

MORE CHOICE FOR VETERANS

The White House is seeking just over $93 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of $6.5 billion from current spending.

The request would support implementation of a law Trump signed last year to give veterans more freedom to see doctors outside the troubled VA system, a major shift aimed at reducing wait times and improving care by steering more patients to the private sector. The plan again targets reducing veteran suicides as a top priority and sets aside $4.3 billion to improve the department’s computer system and website.

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