Congress has deal to avert shutdown
Washington — After more than three months in office without passing any major legislation, President Donald Trump faces a week that offers the possibility of averting a government shutdown and progress on health care.
Trump has spent his first 100 days coming to terms with the slow grind of government even in a Republican-dominated capital, and watching some of his promises —from repealing the nation’s health care law to temporarily banning people from some Muslim nations — fizzle.
Last week lawmakers sent the president a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open through Friday. Aides said lawmakers closely involved in negotiating the $1 trillion package over the weekend worked through many sticking points to reach a deal Sunday night.
The House and Senate have until Friday at midnight to pass the measure to avert a government shutdown.
The aides required anonymity because the talks are not final and the measure has yet to be released.
The catchall spending bill would be the first major piece of bipartisan legislation to advance during Trump’s short tenure in the White House. It denies Trump a win on his oft-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but gives him a down payment on his request to strengthen the military.
It also rejects White House budget director Mick Mulvaney’s proposals to cut popular programs such as funding medical research and community development grants.
Most of the core decisions about agency budgets have been worked out, but unrelated policy issues — such as a Democratic request to help the cash-strapped government of Puerto Rico with its Medicaid burden — were among the final holdups.
Democrats have denied Trump a big-picture win on obtaining an initial down payment for his oft-promised border wall with Mexico, while anti-abortion lawmakers didn’t even attempt to use the must-pass measure to try to cut off federal money for Planned Parenthood.
Democratic votes will be needed to pass the measure, so even though Republicans control both the White House and Congress, Democrats have been actively involved in the talks, which appear headed to produce a lowest-common-denominator measure that won’t look too much different than the deal that could have been struck on President Barack Obama’s watch last year.
Lawmakers will continue negotiating this week on the $1 trillion package financing the government through Sept. 30, the end of the 2017 fiscal year.
Revisiting health care
Despite a renewed White House effort push, the House did not vote last week on a revised bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Health Care Act.
After the original effort failed to win enough support from conservatives and moderates, Republicans recast the bill. The latest version would let states escape a requirement under Obama’s 2010 law that insurers charge healthy and seriously ill customers the same rates. The overall legislation would cut the Medicaid program for the poor, eliminate fines for people who don’t buy insurance and provide generally skimpier subsidies. Critics have said the approach could reduce protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
But during an interview with “Face the Nation” on CBS aired Sunday, Trump said the measure has a “clause that guarantees” that people with pre-existing conditions will be covered.
Trump said: “Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I just watched another network than yours, and they were saying, ‘Pre-existing is not covered.’ Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, ‘Has to be.’”
Trump said during the interview that if he’s unable to renegotiate a long-standing free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, then he’ll terminate the pact.
Abbas meeting on tap
He also spoke about tensions with North Korea. Asked about the failure of several North Korean missile tests recently, Trump said he’d “rather not discuss it. But perhaps they’re just not very good missiles. But eventually, he’ll have good missiles.”
Trump also said he is willing to use the trade issue as leverage to get China’s help with North Korea. “Trade is very important. But massive warfare with millions, potentially millions of people being killed? That, as we would say, trumps trade.”
And he acknowledged the presidency is “a tough job. But I’ve had a lot of tough jobs. I’ve had things that were tougher, although I’ll let you know that better at the end of eight years. Perhaps eight years. Hopefully, eight years.”
Also this week, the president will welcome Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House. And he’ll head to New York City on Thursday where he’ll visit the USS Intrepid to mark the 75th anniversary of a World War II naval battle.
On Sunday morning, Trump headed to Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. The White House did not immediately clarify whether he was holding meetings or golfing.
Trump marked his 100th day in office Saturday with a rally in Harrisburg, where he continued to pledge to cut taxes and get tough on trade deals.
“We are not going to let other countries take advantage of us anymore,” he said Saturday in Harrisburg at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. “From now on it’s going to be America first.”
Trump’s rally Saturday night in Harrisburg offered a familiar recapitulation of what he and aides have argued for days are administration successes, including the successful confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, his Cabinet choices and the approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.