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Why Trump is suddenly eager to cut funding for medical research

Donald Trump wants Congress to quickly cut $1.2 billion from medical research and spend $2 billion on his border wall. That's a bad idea - for several reasons.
Empty hospital emergency room. (Stock photo by  DreamPictures/Getty Images)
Empty hospital emergency room.
Donald Trump, who ran on a platform of America "winning," has been losing quite a bit lately. What the president may not appreciate is the fact that his troubles are likely to get worse before they get better.The White House's radical budget proposal is already deeply controversial -- and likely to face quite a bit of resistance on Capitol Hill, even from his Republican allies -- but it refers to a spending blueprint Trump has in mind for the next fiscal year. What's less appreciated is the administration's plans for the current fiscal year, which runs through September.Politico reported, for example, that Trump "doesn't want to wait until next year to slash government spending on everything from education to mental health programs"; he wants to cut billions of dollars in spending right away. The White House's latest plan includes deep cuts to the State Department and the National Institutes of Health -- which is why you've probably seen headlines about Trump wanting to "cut $1.2 billion from medical research."Military spending, meanwhile, would get a boost, while $2 billion would go towards Trump's border wall.All of this, according to the White House, should be approved by Congress in the coming weeks -- before current federal funding is exhausted on April 28.As the New York Times reported, no one seriously expects Trump's requests to pass.

Democrats said such a plan would arrive dead at the doorstep of the Senate, and Republicans on Tuesday sounded no more enthusiastic. "We just voted to plus up the N.I.H.," said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, who has also been lukewarm on the border wall plan. "It would be difficult to get the votes to then cut it."Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, was more blunt. "I think it is too late for this year," she said about the proposed cuts, echoing several Republican colleagues. As for a border wall, which is not well supported by American voters, "that debate belongs in the next fiscal year," she said.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) was asked yesterday whether Congress is likely to approve a $1.2 billion cut to the NIH. "No," Blunt said, adding, "No."What's striking about this is watching the White House put itself in a lose-lose situation.Let's say congressional Republicans were inclined to go along with Trump's latest request. They're not, but let's say they were for the sake of conversation. If such spending bills advanced, Democrats would balk, Senate Democrats would filibuster, and there would be a government shutdown next month.That, of course, would make Trump look pretty bad.Of course, congressional Republicans probably won't go along with Trump's request, recognizing that voters would hate this, and hoping to avoid a shutdown. The most likely outcome is that GOP lawmakers simply throw the White House's plan in the trash.And that, too, would make Trump look pretty bad.So why bother? If there's a sensible strategy here, it's hiding well.