Budget Battle as Trump Talks Shutdown 05/27 13:31
President Donald Trump has warned Congress that he will never sign another
foot-tall, $1 trillion-plus government-wide spending bill like the one he did
in March. His message to lawmakers in both parties: Get your act together
before the next budget lands on my desk.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump has warned Congress that he will
never sign another foot-tall, $1 trillion-plus government-wide spending bill
like the one he did in March. His message to lawmakers in both parties: Get
your act together before the next budget lands on my desk.
After a brief government shutdown earlier this year, Democrats and
Republicans now agree on the need for budgeting day-to-day operations of
government by the old-fashioned way. That means weeks of open debate and
amendments that empower rank-and-file lawmakers, rather than concentrating
power in the hands of a few leaders meeting in secret.
But Capitol Hill's dysfunction is so pervasive that even the most optimistic
predictions are for only a handful of the 12 annual spending bills to make it
into law by Oct. 1, the start of the new budget year. The rest may get bundled
together into a single, massive measure yet again.
The worst-case scenario? A government shutdown just a month before Election
Day, Nov. 6, as Republicans and Democrats fight for control of the House and
possibly the Senate. Trump is agitating for more money for his long-promised
border wall with Mexico. So far, he has been frustrated by limited success on
"We need the wall. We're going to have it all. And again, that wall has
started. We got $1.6 billion. We come up again (in) September," Trump said in a
campaign-style event in Michigan last month. "If we don't get border security,
we'll have no choice. We'll close down the country because we need border
At stake is the funding for daily operations of government agencies. A
budget deal this year reversed spending cuts that affected military readiness
and put a crimp on domestic agencies. A $1.3 trillion spending bill swept
through Congress in March, though Trump entertained last-minute second thoughts
about the measure and promised he would not sign a repeat.
The demise of the annual appropriations process took root after Republicans
took over the House in 2011 and is part of a broader breakdown on Capitol Hill.
The yearly bills need bipartisan support to advance, which has grated on tea
party lawmakers. GOP leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his
predecessor as speaker, Ohio Republican John Boehner, have preferred to focus
on other priorities.
Ryan did throw his weight behind a two-year budget agreement this year that
set an overall spending limit of $1.3 trillion for both 2018 and 2019, citing a
need to boost the Pentagon.
That, in theory, makes it easier to get the appropriations process back on
track. But in the GOP-controlled House, where Democratic votes are generally
needed to pass the bills, Democrats are complaining that Republicans have
shortchanged domestic agencies such as the Department of Health and Human
Services and the Environmental Protection Agency.
That's not the case in the Senate, where the new chairman of the Senate
Appropriations Committee, Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, is determined to
get the system working again. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New
York is on board, as is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., himself a
decades-long veteran of that powerful committee.
"We want this to work," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who criticized the
GOP-controlled House for continuing to pack legislation with "poison pills."
Obstacles remain, however.
For starters, floor debates could lead to votes on contentious issues such
as immigration, the border wall, gun control and others that some lawmakers
might hope to avoid.
Democrats are wary of Republicans trying to jam through the Pentagon
spending bill before dealing with some agencies.
And Trump could blow up the whole effort at any time.
Trump is prone to threatening government shutdowns on Twitter or when he
riffs in public, and then backing off when bills are delivered to him.
In the House, a familiar problem awaits.
Many conservative Republicans won't vote for some bills because they think
they spend too much money. That means Democratic votes are a must. But many
Democrats are upset over unrelated policy add-ons pushed by the GOP, and they
won't vote for the spending bills unless those provisions are removed, which
usually doesn't happen until end-stage talks.
At the same time, House GOP leaders are distracted by disputes over
immigration, and they haven't made the appropriations bills a priority.
An effort led by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to cut or
"rescind" $15 billion in unspent money has run into greater opposition than
anticipated. Meantime, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep.
Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., is unpopular with some House conservatives, who
cite his votes against a recent farm bill and against last year's tax cut
measure, and that may hamper his effectiveness.