House Dem opposition mounts to budget deal

House Dem opposition mounts to budget deal
© Greg Nash

Following the lead of Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiCárdenas starts legal defense fund for sex abuse lawsuit Booming economy, kept promises, making America great — again The Hill's Morning Report — Trump showcases ICE ahead of midterm elections MORE (D-Calif.), a growing number of rank-and-file House Democrats are saying they will oppose a budget deal unless they get a commitment from Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanKrystal Ball: GOP tax cut is 'opiate of the massively privileged' Top GOP lawmaker: Tax cuts will lower projected deficit GOP super PAC seizes on Ellison abuse allegations in ads targeting Dems MORE (R-Wis.) for an immigration vote.

After huddling in the Capitol basement just hours before the government is set to close, House Democrats appeared to be leaning heavily against a sweeping bipartisan budget deal to keep the government open, despite the deal's endorsement by Senate Democratic leaders. They are citing the absence of a commitment from Ryan to vote on legislation to protect the “Dreamers,” young immigrants brought to the country illegally as kids.

Pelosi supports the underlying budget deal — indeed, she helped to craft it — but is withholding her support unless Ryan guarantees a vote to shore up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE is terminating in the first week of March.

By all accounts, Pelosi is not twisting the arms of her troops to join the opposition. But in making her case during Thursday’s meeting, she seemed to be having a persuasive effect.

“I woke up this morning thinking I was a yes, because I’m pleased with the many things that are in it,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said leaving the meeting.

“On the other hand really the only leverage we have right now is not giving Paul Ryan our votes, if he doesn’t need them.”

Beyer said he’s now voting no.

“Anyone who underestimates Pelosi’s ability to influence the Democratic caucus shouldn’t be in the business that you’re in,” said Rep. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanTop Dem lawmaker pushing committee for closed-door debrief with Trump’s interpreter Ex-Capitol Hill aide shares political lessons from soccer NRATV host warns Trump will be impeached if GOP loses House MORE (D-Calif.).  “Pelosi is a very persuasive person.”

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) officially announced it would oppose the budget caps deal following the Thursday night meeting.

The legislative game of chicken comes over a bipartisan budget deal that would set the stage to boost federal spending for defense and nondefense programs by $300 billion over the next two years and raise the debt ceiling for one year. It would fund the government until March 23, which will give lawmakers time to write an omnibus spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year.

 The deal also includes a number of other priorities for both parties, including money for disaster relief, the opioid crisis, the Children's Health Insurance Program and community health centers.

With dozens of conservatives poised to oppose the budget deal over deficit spending concerns, Ryan and House GOP leaders will be forced to reach across the aisle for Democratic votes. The exact math remains unclear, but Rep. Dennis RossDennis Alan RossElection Countdown: Trump jumps into Ohio special election fight | What to watch in Tennessee primaries | Koch network freezes out Republicans who crossed them | Dead heat in Texas, Nevada Senate races | How celebs are getting into the midterms Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column Trump, GOP launch full-court press on compromise immigration measure MORE (R-Fla.), a senior member of the GOP whip team, predicted the Republicans would need around 75 Democrats to get the budget deal over the finish line.

But Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldOn The Money: Harley-Davidson decision raises trade tensions with Trump | Senate panel to take up tariff legislation | CBO projects grim budget outlook under Trump | White House objects to measure on reinstating ZTE ban Dem lawmakers seek distance from Waters call for confrontation 'Diamond & Silk' offer chance for bipartisan push back on social media censorship MORE (D-N.C.), former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, estimated that less than 40 Democrats would support the bill.

“They’re going to get to 175, 180, and they’re going to hit a ceiling,” said Butterfield, former head of the Congressional Black Caucus. “And then Speaker Ryan is going to panic and then he’s got to make a decision whether to shut the vote down and let the government shut down, or make a very benign commitment – and that is to debate the DACA, the Dreamer bill.”

“If he were to call on our leaders in a few minutes and make it crystal clear that he is willing to entertain floor debate on DACA, then I think he’ll get the votes to pass it,” he added.

With GOP leaders needing at least dozens of Democratic votes to avoid a shutdown, the growing feeling among many Democrats is that this is their chance to use their leverage to get concessions from Ryan on immigration.

“I just feel like, at some point, we just have to stand up because it’s the right thing to do,” said Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyWomen poised to take charge in Dem majority Overnight Health Care: Drug price fight heats up | Skepticism over drug companies' pledges | Ads target HHS secretary over child separations | Senate confirms VA pick Lawmakers worry about rise in drugged driving MORE (D-Ill.), who grew emotional and began tearing up as she spoke. “We have leverage now. They don’t have the votes.”

“Just tell us that you’ll have a vote [on DACA.] Not even that it will pass,” she added.

Schakowsky added that Pelosi’s marathon House floor speech on Wednesday “wasn’t for nothing, when she stood for eight hours.”

Immigration is not the only issue causing Democrats to balk. A number of lawmakers said they simply can’t support the hike in defense spending, which was demanded by GOP leaders in a bid to win over conservative support.

“They’re spending money on defense that the army didn’t ask for,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “These people have gone wild.”

Asked how many Democrats would support the measure, Cleaver was terse.

“Not many,” he said. “Probably not enough to make it go.”

Pelosi has come under fire from immigrant rights advocates since the 2018 budget fight began last September. The critics contend she didn’t fight hard enough to force a DACA provision onto short-term spending bills when the Democrats had leverage. Pelosi’s marathon speech Wednesday urging Ryan to act on DACA was meant, at least in part, to assure the critics that the fate of the Dreamers is a top priority.

Still, Democratic leaders are not whipping the vote. Rep. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderDems reverse course on White House parks plan Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog won’t drop Pruitt probes | Exxon leaves conservative advocacy group | Lawmakers offer changes to Endangered Species Act Western lawmakers introduce bills to amend Endangered Species Act MORE (Ore.), a Blue Dog Democrat who expressed concern with the hundreds of billions of dollars in increased deficit spending in the package, said Pelosi applied no pressure.

”Do what you want to do, she said,” Schrader relayed.

Leaving the meeting, Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondCuomo throws support behind superdelegate reform Dem requests DOJ probe on law enforcement use of facial recognition technology Clyburn: I'll run for Speaker if Pelosi doesn't have enough votes to win MORE (D-La.), head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), bashed the Republicans for “offering a false choice” between shoring up DACA and funding the government.

“That’s a stupid choice,” Richmond said, heading into another meeting of CBC members in search of a position.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), meanwhile, is releasing a whip notice Thursday night urging its liberal members to oppose the package, largely over Ryan’s inaction on DACA.

“If he hasn’t put it on the table, it’s a non-starter,” said Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanEx-GOP communications director: Demonizing ICE is ‘unfair’  How Twitter vaulted 'Abolish ICE' into the mainstream Ocasio-Cortez tiptoes into Washington MORE (D-Wis.), who heads the  CPC.

To be sure, not all Democrats are opposing the budget package, which includes a host provisions they favor.

Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonClyburn: I'll run for Speaker if Pelosi doesn't have enough votes to win TSA needs to answer important questions on 'Quiet Skies' program Dems demand Trump admin officials testify on election security MORE (D-Miss.), a CBC member, said he’s supporting the package for a simple reason.

“I like the stuff that’s in it,” he said.

Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthOvernight Health Care: Trump health official warned against family separations | Study ignites debate over cost of 'Medicare for All' | Individual market enrollment drops as premiums rise Liberal Dems lay groundwork to push 'Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care: Trump meets with Pfizer CEO amid pricing push | Kentucky reinstates dental, vision Medicaid benefits | Spending by health lobby groups down in second quarter MORE (Ky.), ranking member of the Budget Committee, is also supporting the package, but strongly suggested he’s in the minority within the Caucus. If Republicans need 75 Democrats to pass the bill, “that might be questionable,” he said.

“If it’s less, probably more likely,” Yarmuth said.

And Rep. Al LawsonAlfred (Al) James LawsonLawmakers trade barbs, torch Trump at DC soiree House Dem opposition mounts to budget deal Lawmakers put their beer brewing skills to test for charity MORE, a Florida Democrat, also said he was leaning towards supporting the package because of the disaster aid for hurricane-ravaged regions like his home state.

Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierDems demand answers on Pentagon not recognizing Pride Month Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks Overnight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases MORE (D-Calif.) said Democrats were “split” over the deal and predicted that some of them would back the package, but declined to say how many.

Many Democrats were careful not tip their hands as GOP leaders scramble to lock down the votes.

“People are convinced that we shouldn’t be broadcasting where we are right now,” Schakowsky said.

Updated at 9:32 p.m.