Trump plan to claw back $15 billion in spending in peril

Trump plan to claw back $15 billion in spending in peril
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff: Surveillance warrant docs show that Nunes memo 'misrepresented and distorted these applications' Chicago detention facility under investigation following allegations of abuse of migrant children Ex-Trump aide: Surveillance warrants are 'complete ignorance' and 'insanity' MORE's plan to claw back billions of dollars in previously approved government spending is facing a likely death in the Senate as lawmakers eye a vote this week.

Senators have until Friday if they want to pass the package to claw back roughly $15 billion in spending with only a simple majority that allows them to avoid a Democratic filibuster. The measure narrowly cleared the House last week.

Supporters of the measure have no room for error if they want to get the bill to Trump’s desk. With GOP Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Memo: Summit fallout hits White House Graham: Biggest problem is Trump ‘believes meddling equals collusion’ Obama, Bush veterans dismiss Trump-Putin interpreter subpoena MORE (Ariz.) absent as he battles brain cancer, potential Republican votes are capped at 50 — and no Democrats have indicated they’ll support the legislation.

Republican leaders are acknowledging they do not currently have the votes locked down.

"We're talking to members,” said Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits MORE (R-Texas). “That’s what we're going to be working on the next few days.”

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Helsinki summit becomes new flashpoint for GOP anger Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash MORE (S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, separately told The Hill “we’ll see. I couldn’t predict at this point.”

Conservatives and the White House are pressing forward on the plan, even as they appear short of votes.

Passing the package would hand Trump and conservatives a needed victory after fiscal hawks tore into the price tag of the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill that Congress passed in March.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeWisconsin GOP Senate candidate rips his own parents for donations to Dems GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE’s office said Monday that the Utah Republican had gathered enough support to force the rescissions package to the floor. Lee needed to get signatures from one-fifth of the Senate, or roughly 20 lawmakers.

Lee’s office predicted that a move to discharge the legislation out of committee and to the entire Senate would likely take place on Thursday, pushing the fight over the clawback plan down to the wire. 

Supporters of the clawback measure are stepping up pressure ahead of the showdown on the Senate floor as they try to sway key holdouts.

Lee and a group of conservative GOP senators are holding a press conference on Tuesday to try to bolster support ahead of the spending fight.

Meanwhile, the conservative group Heritage Action for America announced on Monday that it would key-vote the rescissions package in an effort to get Republicans to vote “yes." 

“If the Republican Party is truly concerned with excessive spending and debt, the Impoundment Control Act provides the best immediate opportunity to roll back decades of overspending by the Washington Establishment,” the group said.

It added that supporting the rescissions package would show “midterm election voters that they will govern responsibly and steward taxpayer dollars if re-elected to the majority.”

Trump met with Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyJuan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins Five things to watch for in Trump-Putin summit GOP senators visited Moscow on July 4, warned Russia against meddling in 2018 election: report MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Lots of love: Charity tennis match features lawmakers teaming up across the aisle Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs MORE (R-W.Va.), a member of the panel, at the White House on Monday afternoon about the larger appropriations process.

The closed-door meeting comes after White House budget director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Trump rips Fed over rate hikes | Dems fume as consumer agency pick refuses to discuss border policy | Senate panel clears Trump IRS nominee Trump pick to head watchdog agency is who consumers need Dems fume as Trump's consumer bureau pick refuses to discuss role in border policy MORE met with the entire GOP caucus last week try to build support for the package.

Capito and Shelby are among several lawmakers who remain publicly undecided on whether they’ll ultimately support the rescissions package.

Shelby said afterward that he was still questioning whether the cuts are "optics" or "substance."

Capito, meanwhile, pointed to cuts to an energy loan program that she said is “useful” to her home state. 

In addition to the two senators, several other members of the Appropriations Committee have yet to say if they’ll support the bill, including GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 MORE (Alaska).

Collins said she's still reviewing the measure, but indicated that funding decisions should be made by Congress.

"In general I believe that it is a congressional prerogative as we do the appropriations bill to identify money that could be repurposed," Collins said.

Senate Republicans can’t afford any defections if they want to pass the rescissions package without help from Democrats. Their narrow majority in the chamber gives the bill long odds after it cleared the House in a 210-206 vote. No Democrats in the House supported the measure, while 19 Republicans voted against it.

Currently, no Democrats who are up for reelection this year in states won by Trump in 2016 have said they will support the bill, raising the likelihood that Republicans will have to rely solely on GOP votes.

The White House first proposed the rescissions package in May, but revised its request earlier this month. The revised measure dropped the amount of spending expected to be clawed back from roughly $15.4 billion to approximately $14.7 billion.

The revision stripped out provisions targeting federal highway funding after a Government Accountability Office analysis warned it may not legally be eligible for rescissions. A growing Ebola outbreak in Congo also led the White House to remove provisions slashing emergency funds to combat Ebola.

But critics of the plan have seized on the fact that approximately half of the spending, $7 billion, comes from two accounts in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The administration, backed up by an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, says the rescissions would not impact CHIP spending over the next decade but that’s done little to stem criticism over its inclusion.

Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHistory argues for Democratic Senate gains Polling analyst: Same Dems who voted for Gorsuch will vote for Kavanaugh Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions MORE (N.D.), one of the Democrats who most frequently votes with Republicans, said she would oppose the legislation over the CHIP funding.

Collins also noted after the meeting with Mulvaney that she “remained concerned” about CHIP rescissions, adding that even if the funding wasn't needed it could be repurposed.