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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 
that front.

   "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 
security."

   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.


(KA)

 
 
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