Opinion writer

As with previous presidents’ budgets, President Trump’s budget released yesterday is more of a gesture than anything else. The media will look to it to gauge what the president’s priorities are while members of Congress will identify sections they find useful and discount the others. But this year, I think the GOP’s response, or lack thereof, to Trump’s budget is illustrative of a problem no one is quite comfortable discussing — Republicans have not come to terms with what a Republican budget should look like. The Trump budget is a wake-up call for Republicans. There is no President Barack Obama to blame for budget stalemates and out-of-control spending.

So, will we be Obama-lite on government spending? Do we want to maintain the status quo on entitlements, or will we seriously reduce the size and scope of the federal bureaucracy? Do we just want to limit and manage the left’s usual criticism that Republicans are interested only in denying benefits to widows, orphans, etc., or are we prepared to make difficult but necessary spending reductions and then sell the budget to the public and run on it in 2018? It may be considered political suicide to reduce spending and balance the budget within 10 years, but isn’t it economic suicide if we continue on the present course?

With former congressman Mick Mulvaney serving as the architect of the president’s budget and director of the Office of Management and Budget, the world knows that Trump is prepared to reduce spending, balance the budget and honestly change the trajectory of government. The budget may have been a gesture, but it was a meaningful one nonetheless.

Despite the bleak outlook offered by Democrats and anti-Trump political pundits who oppose almost any spending cuts, the fact remains that Republicans must take ownership of this budget and follow through on years of promises to make the “tough choices” that so many of our representatives in Congress campaigned on.

The Trump budget scales back the size and scope of the federal government and reduces or eliminates funding for programs that are wasteful or, in some instances, more appropriate for the states to handle. Those are top priorities for any member of the Republican Party, right?

Republicans may not see eye to eye on every aspect of the Trump budget, but it does push us in the right direction. And Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) can have his laughs, comparing Trump’s budget to that of a “comic-book villain,” but childish political posturing will only last so long before our growing debt consumes the benefits Democrats always say they want to protect.

The administration understands the budget will not pass in its current form. And yet the question remains, is it a GOP blueprint for the future? Are we ready for a balanced budget and a smaller government? We need to ask ourselves: How can Republicans weigh the urgent need for budget sanity and the political reality of budget cuts?

I have come to accept that in Washington, whoever is for spending the most usually wins. But in 2015, Republicans proved that passing a real budget that balances in 10 years is at least possible. In addition to this year’s Trump budget, Republicans could use that 2015 model as a template for budget talks in the weeks to come. This is no time to be timid.

There was no real effort to rally behind the president’s budget after its release. Even the president, who was more than 5,000 miles away at the time of the budget’s release, remained silent.

If Republicans want to make a stand with this budget ahead of election season, the Republican Party will have to speak in unison — boldly and clearly.