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The Latest: Lawmakers critical of cuts in security grants

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin takes his seat on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 24, 2017, prior to testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the Treasury Department's fiscal year 2018 budget proposals. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s budget (all times local):

5 p.m.

Members of a House appropriations subcommittee are skeptical about President Donald Trump’s plan to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from security grant programs managed by the Homeland Security Department.

Rep. John Carter, a Texas Republican who chairs the homeland security subcommittee, says the proposed cuts of $767 million to state and local grant programs are “worrisome.”

Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, says the cuts simply don’t make sense given the current terror threat. She says Monday’s bombing at a concert in Manchester, England, is proof of the ongoing threats.

Homeland Security John Kelly says the Trump administration had to make cuts as part of President Donald Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget proposal, and says the grants are no longer as necessary as they once were.

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3:50 p.m.

Democratic lawmakers are pressing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) on the administration’s forthcoming tax overhaul proposal. They want to know whether it would meet a pledge he made shortly after the election that there would be “no absolute tax cut” for the rich.

Mnuchin says the president’s objective is to simplify the tax code and to pass a middle-income tax cut. Mnuchin says that’s consistent with his earlier comments.

Mnuchin says the tax plan is being crafted in a way that would cut taxes on the “high end” and eliminate all deductions other than those for mortgage interest payments and charitable donations.

Mnuchin is pushing tax cuts as necessary to enhance economic growth as he appears before a House panel reviewing the president’s budget. Democrats say they’re worried that corporate and individual income tax cuts will increase the national debt.

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2:40 p.m.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) is urging lawmakers to pass legislation to increase the government’s borrowing limit before leaving on their August recess.

Mnuchin also urged the House Ways and Means Committee members to pass the debt limit legislation as a “clean” bill without controversial add-ons that could complicate its passage. He had previously said the deadline to act was sometime in the fall, in line with other analysts.

Congress must act to increase the debt limit to avert a first-ever, economy-rattling default on U.S. obligations like bond payments.

Mnuchin’s comments came shortly after White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said that government “receipts currently are coming a little bit slower than expected.”

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2:30 p.m.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is defending the aggressive spending cuts in President Donald Trump’s budget. He says the “costs of excessive government commitments” has “forced us into hard choices.”

Mnuchin was appearing Wednesday before a House panel one day after the White House released Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget recommendation.

Mnuchin emphasized the need for tax cuts, and says his top priority is creating sustainable economic growth. He says the best way to achieve that is through tax reform and regulatory relief.

Republican Rep. Kevin Brady calls Trump’s proposals a “welcome change” because the budget envisions a balanced budget over the next decade.

Democratic Rep. Richard Neal says the budget “cuts program after program that middle class families rely on every day.”

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1:35 p.m.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney says the administration is likely to tell lawmakers they’ll need to act earlier than expected to increase the government’s borrowing cap.

Mulvaney told the House Budget Committee that “receipts currently are coming a little bit slower than expected.” He says Congress may soon hear from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) about a change in the deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

Mnuchin had previously advised that the deadline to for Congress to act — and avert a first-ever default on U.S. obligations — was sometime in the fall.

The administration has privately informed GOP leaders that it would like Congress to act before the annual August recess.

The debt vote is sure to be difficult for Republicans controlling Congress, most of whom voted against debt limit increases during former President Barack Obama’s tenure.

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1:25 p.m.

A fellow Republican is lacing into President Donald Trump’s budget, saying his promises to balance it are based on fanciful economic projections.

South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford told White House budget director Mick Mulvaney that Trump’s budget “presumes a Goldilocks economy” that never goes into recession.

Sanford told Mulvaney that the budget “assumes that the stars perfectly align” by promising an economic growth rate of 3 percent but that such an economic surge wouldn’t increase inflation and bond yields.

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1 p.m.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is defending the Trump administration’s proposal to slash funding for key K-12 and higher education programs while promoting school choice.

DeVos is getting some pointed questions from Democrats on a House committee about using public money to help students pay for private school tuition.

Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts asked whether a private school should be allowed to receive public money if it rejects LGBT students, DeVos says that decision is best left for states to make. Clark replied, “I am shocked.”

DeVos also says states, not the federal government, should make decisions about special education and academic and other standards for private schools that use vouchers.

DeVos says school choice gives parents and children education opportunities regardless of their income, zip code and race.

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11:45 a.m.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is defending the Trump administration’s proposal to cut $191 billion from food stamps over the next 10 years.

At a House hearing Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro told Perdue that the budget turns the nation’s back on the hungry. She said that’s “cruel,” ”heartless” and “inhumane.”

Perdue said the budget would fully pay for food stamp benefits in the coming year, but suggests policy changes to Congress. Trump’s proposal would shift some cost to states, target benefits to the poorest people, increase work requirements and limit some eligibility.

Perdue says the best way to help poverty and hunger is “to turn the economy around, and job dignity.”

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10:18 a.m.

Donald Trump’s budget chief is defending the president’s plans to cut social programs as a means to increase economic growth to 3 percent and put “taxpayers first.”

Budget director Mick Mulvaney told the House Budget Committee on Wednesday that he went “line by line” through the federal budget and asked “Can we justify this to the folks who are actually paying for it?”

But Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington told Mulvaney that cuts to food stamps, payments to the disabled, and other programs are “astonishing and frankly immoral.”

Mulvaney also told the panel it will take cuts to Social Security and Medicare to balance the budget in the future. Trump left those big retirement programs alone in this year’s effort.

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2:55 a.m.

Top officials in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet are heading to Capitol Hill to defend his plans to cut domestic programs and parry Democratic criticism of his tax plans.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney appears Wednesday before the House Budget panel while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will testify at the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

Trump on Tuesday released a 10-year budget plan containing jarring, politically unrealistic cuts to the social safety net and a broad swath of domestic programs.

The plan, Trump’s first as president, combines $4.1 trillion for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year with a promise to bring the budget back into balance in 10 years, relying on aggressive spending cuts, a surge in economic growth — and a $2 trillion-plus accounting gimmick.

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