Congressional leaders’ efforts to hatch a massive spending deal have been thrown off course by the Trump administration’s 11th-hour intervention, leaving the bipartisan bill teetering on the brink of collapse just a week before a government shutdown deadline.
The hard line taken by White House officials, particularly Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, has strained an emerging deal between House and Senate leaders that would skirt hot-button issues that could shut down the government.
In particular, administration officials’ hopes of giving President Donald Trump a win during his first 100 days, such as border wall funding or a crackdown on sanctuary cities, have complicated what had been a relatively smooth, bicameral, bipartisan negotiation, according to staffers in both parties.
But Democrats are taking an aggressive stance, too, flatly insisting that Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan make a commitment to funding Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies as a precondition to voting for any bill to fund the government through September.
Democrats have also talked tough on ruling out funding for a wall or a provision restricting billions in federal grants from cities that don’t enforce federal immigration laws.
“Negotiations are slow-going,” said a Republican aide familiar with the bargaining. “There is a deal to be had – a good one with wins for both parties, but I think with a new minority leader and a new president, anything can happen. … If we don’t get much progress by this weekend, bad news.”
Republican leaders are desperate to avoid a shutdown after April 28, and Trump himself said on Thursday, “We wanna keep the government open.” But productive talks among McConnell, Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stalled over the last 24 hours after administration officials signaled they would dig in over wall funding.
Legislative text detailing the agreement that some lawmakers expected to be released late this week is now not expected until next week – if ever. To avoid a shutdown, Congress could also pass a one-week extension to give negotiators more time.
Congressional leaders “could have struck a deal” on a larger package said a Senate Democratic aide. The White House’s involvement means hopes for a bipartisan agreement are “just getting murkier.”
Republicans are mulling a fallback plan that would keep the government operating at current funding levels through September, known as a continuing resolution, aides said. That bill would likely contain some new money for fighting terror, a priority of both parties.