Ryan reassures conservatives wary of spending bill
Washington — House Speaker Paul Ryan sought to assure conservatives on Wednesday that a massive government-wide spending bill is a win for President Donald Trump and Republicans, citing “a really good down payment” on rebuilding the military and “the biggest increase in border security in a decade.”
Ryan told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the most important win for Republicans was breaking loose from former Democratic President Barack Obama’s edict that increases in defense spending be matched with equal hikes for nondefense programs.
The House is scheduled to vote on the bipartisan $1.1 trillion measure Wednesday afternoon. It is a product of weeks of Capitol Hill negotiations in which top Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi successfully blocked Trump’s most controversial proposals, including a down payment on the oft-promised Trump Mexico border wall, cuts to popular domestic programs, and new punishments for so-called sanctuary cities.
“What we really wanted to do is break the parity requirement that we endured under Obama, where if you wanted to put a dollar into the military for a ship, for a plane, for bullets, for gas, you had to give the domestic spending of federal government another dollar,” Ryan said.
The White House boasted of $15 billion in emergency funding to jumpstart Trump’s promise to rebuild the military and an extra $1.5 billion for border security.
“After years of partisan bickering and gridlock, this bill is a clear win for the American people,” Trump said, citing the Pentagon and border money. “This is what winning looks like.”
The opinions of top party leaders were not shared by the rank and file.
“From my point of view, we pretty well got our clock cleaned,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
On Tuesday, however, Trump took to Twitter, angrily reacting to media reports depicting Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York as winners in the negotiations. He cited Senate rules that empower minority Democrats and tweeted that the U.S. government “needs a good shutdown” this fall to fix a “mess” in the Senate.
The pending bill buys five months of funding while Trump and his allies battle with congressional Democrats over spending cuts and funding for Trump’s oft-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Ryan said “I am not even going to venture to guess” whether such battles might generate a shutdown, though Republicans were surprised by Trump’s tweets and view the prospect of a shutdown as a political loser for them.
At issue is a mammoth, 1,665-page measure to fund the government through September that largely continues a long-established tradition of bipartisan spending deals that boost funding for medical research, aid for schools, and law enforcement accounts, while defending foreign aid, grants to state and local governments, and the Environmental Protection Agency from cuts sought by tea party Republicans.
Democratic votes will be needed to pass the measure even though Republicans control both the White House and Congress, which made Pelosi and Schumer active and powerful participants in the talks, leading to bipartisan outcomes like a $2 billion disaster aid fund, $407 million to combat Western wildfires, and additional grants for transit projects, $100 million in emergency funding to fight the nation’s opioid crisis, and a $2 billion increase for medical research at the National Institutes of Health.
The White House and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., both crowed over a hard-fought $1.3 billion provision to preserve health benefits for more than 22,000 retired coal miners and their families, which was included over the opposition of House Speaker Ryan. Pelosi was the driving force behind an effort to give the cash-strapped government of Puerto Rico $295 million to ease its Medicaid burden.
Negotiators on the bill say it looks pretty much like the measure would have looked like if it had been ironed out last year under Obama — save for Trump’s add-ons for the Pentagon and the border. Democrats scored some wins as well, and Schumer was quick to run a victory lap in a series of media interviews on Monday that appeared to get under Trump’s skin.
“The president is frustrated with the fact that he negotiated in good faith with the Democrats, and they went out to try to spike the football and make him look bad,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters. Asked about a potential shutdown later in the year, Mulvaney said, “if the Democrats aren’t going to behave any better than they have in the last couple of days, it may be inevitable.”