Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Some of President Trump’s top aides, who assume he will be re-elected, are already planning for an epic 2021 spending battle.

What's happening: Senior administration officials — including acting Office of Management and Budget director Russ Vought and fiscally conservative chief Mick Mulvaney — have told Republicans that the president doesn't want Congress to strike a spending deal in September when current funding runs out. Instead, Team Trump wants a short-term solution to preserve the ability to fight for massive spending cuts in the fifth year of a Trump presidency.

  • The White House thinks the most likely scenario this year is that the president signs a one-year "continuing resolution" (a continuation of 2019 spending levels through 2020), followed by another short-term extension next September to get past the November election.

Why it matters: Some senior administration officials envision a newly re-elected Trump liberated to slash spending. They view 2021 as the year to have that fight — the final year in which the president can threaten hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. (These automatic cuts, which attack both defense and domestic spending, expire in 2021.)

  • As president, Trump has floated massive budget cuts but signed legislation making the debt and deficits worse.
  • It's a huge broken promise. During his 2016 campaign, Trump said he would eliminate the $19 trillion debt over eight years. The debt now stands at $22 trillion — the highest ever.
  • Trump has spent prolifically, cutting taxes without making up the lost revenue. And now, he’s flirting with a $2 trillion infrastructure bill (but doesn't want to raise taxes to pay for it).

The big picture: Trump wants to spend more on prized projects, but still views most of government as a mass of fraud and waste — ripe for slashing.

Aides say Trump wants to spend more on the military, veterans’ programs, NASA, infrastructure and border security.

The bottom line: Trump will entertain cutting almost anything else. "The president feels like he's had to give up ransom" to Democrats, who pressured him to increase domestic spending in exchange for more spending on the military and border security, an administration official told me.

  • He reserves special contempt for foreign aid and additional disaster relief money going to Puerto Rico, which he believes the Puerto Rican government is unfit to manage.

Go deeper

Grand jury indicts former officer who shot Breonna Taylor

A memorial to Breonna Taylor in downtown Louisville, Kentucky on Sept. 23. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

A grand jury has indicted Brett Hankison, the former Louisville police officer who entered Breonna Taylor's home in March and shot her at least eight times, on three counts of wanton endangerment.

The big picture: Taylor's death helped ignite nationwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations this summer, as protesters demanded justice for her, George Floyd and other Black Americans killed by police. The outrage led to Hankison being fired and the passage of a city law that banned no-knock warrants — two rare consequences after police shootings of Black Americans.

FDA chief vows agency will not accept political pressure on coronavirus vaccine

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn promised that "science will guide our decision" for a coronavirus vaccine at a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Why it matters: More Americans are expressing doubt about a first-generation vaccine, despite President Trump's efforts to push an unrealistic timeline that conflicts with medical experts in his administration.

CEO confidence rises for the first time in over 2 years

Data: Business Roundtable; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A closely-watched CEO economic confidence index rose for the first time after declining for nine straight quarters, according to a survey of 150 chief executives of the biggest U.S. companies by trade group Business Roundtable.

Why it matters: The index, which still remains at a decade low, reflects corporate America's expectations for sales, hiring and spending — which plummeted amid uncertainty when the pandemic hit.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!