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White House calls for domestic cuts to finance Mexico border wall

Donald Trump is proposing immediate budget cuts of 18 billion dollars (£14 billion) from programmes like medical research, infrastructure and community grants so US taxpayers, not Mexico, can cover the down-payment on the border wall.

White House documents were submitted to Congress amid negotiations over a catch-all spending bill that would avert a partial government shutdown at the end of next month.

The package would wrap up 1.1 trillion dollars (£890 billion) in unfinished spending bills and address the Trump administration's request for an immediate 30 billion dollars (£24 billion) in additional Pentagon spending.

The latest Trump proposal would eliminate 1.2 billion dollars (£970 million) in National Institutes of Health research grants, a favourite of both parties.

The community development block grant programme, also popular, would be halved, amounting to a cut of 1.5 billion dollars (£1.2 billion), and Mr Trump would strip 500 million dollars (£400 million) from a popular grant programme for transportation projects. Some of that money would help pay for parts of the wall.

Like Mr 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 headlines for the struggling Trump White House, since the administration asked earlier for 3 billion dollars (£2.4 billion) to pay for Mr Trump's controversial US-Mexico border wall and other immigration enforcement plans.

During the campaign, Mr 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 programmes vital to the middle class to get that done," said Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.

"Build the wall or repair or build a bridge or tunnel or road in your community? What's the choice?"

The roster of cuts was sent to Capitol Hill as a set of options for Republican staff aides and legislators crafting a catch-all spending bill for the ongoing budget year, which ends on September 30.

Those talks are intensifying, but Senate Republicans are considering backing away from a showdown with Democrats over whether to fund Mr Trump's request for immediate funding to build the wall.

Senate Democrats have threatened to filibuster any provision providing money for the wall, and many Republicans are not enthusiastic about it and say the White House has not given them many specifics.

The government would shut down except for some functions at midnight on April 28 without successful action on spending.

Republican leaders are eager to avoid a politically damaging shutdown, especially after last week's embarrassing failure to pass the Trump-pushed bill to repeal and replace former president Barack Obama's health care law.

Negotiators have made progress on the core elements of a dozen must-do funding bills, but have ignored the White House's list of cuts in doing so.

AP

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