Conservatives fear being steamrolled by Dems on funding bill

Greg Nash

Republican hard-liners in the House left a conference meeting Tuesday morning worried that the massive spending package being negotiated by GOP leaders will fail to deliver conservative wins.

While appropriators are still working out key details of the legislation, which has not yet been released, top conservatives argued leadership isn’t negotiating hard enough to ensure that they aren’t steamrolled by the Senate.

{mosads}Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) touted the measure’s sharp increase in defense spending, telling his members they are delivering on their promise to strengthen the military. The package will also contain a spending increase for domestic programs, something Democrats insisted upon.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said an outcome where Democrats receive more funding for their priorities under a Republican majority than they did under the Obama administration will be “a very difficult thing to message in November.” 

“It sounds like the Democrats in the Senate are getting all kinds of wins in terms of riders,” he told reporters. “I don’t know, I mean I haven’t read it. So all you’re looking at is, when most of the wins are the fact that we’re funding our military, that doesn’t speak well for $63 billion in nondefense discretionary plus-ups as wins.” 

Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a member of the Freedom Caucus, echoed Meadow’s sentiments, noting the mood during the conference meeting “wasn’t great” due to concerns over the deficit and the policy riders being added to the package to win over Democrats.

“The play call was the Freedom Caucus went along with all 12 [appropriations] bills — we didn’t love every aspect of it, but we went with it because the promise was that were going to stick with 218 Republican votes throughout the process,” he told The Hill. 

“And then of course at the end the Senate wants their way, and we get rolled, and so the fiscal discipline goes out the door.” 

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said he has some major concerns over the spending levels for nondefense programs, but remains hopeful certain provisions will move to the right.

“In full transparency, I appreciate the fact that it’s trending in what we believe would be the right direction. Hats off to the appropriators who worked all night, [Rep.] Tom Cole, that really pushed back against the Senate getting what we need on some of the pro-life provisions,” he told The Hill.

“I’m glad they’re doing that. But if we zoom out — sometimes we don’t because we get caught up with whatever the next fight is — but if we zoom out, we still have a major problem as far as the deficit.”

Members noted divisions over border security continues to be one of the biggest hold ups in the negotiations, something Brat said was “frustrating” for conservatives who support President Trump’s push to build a wall along the southern border.

“The president wins an election on that issue and he’s talking about $10 [billion] to $20 billion dollar framework for border security, wall issues, and then all of a sudden out of nowhere comes a New York Gateway project for [Senate Minority Leader Charles] Schumer, and they’re getting $30 billion in contrast with $10 or $20 billion for border security,” he told The Hill. 

“We own the House, the Senate and the presidency, and so conservatives are just dumbfounded as to how we’re negotiating that deal and not getting anything on our side.

In another move that could anger the right, Ryan is talking to his members about adding a narrow background check bill for gun purchases to the spending package. 

The House had already approved the background checks bill, but it paired the measure with legislation that would allow people with concealed weapons to take them across state lines. Conservatives have insisted that the two issues should not be separated form each other in legislation.

Republicans close to negotiations dismissed accusations they’re giving in to Democrats, saying several key Republican priorities will be addressed in the bill. 

“You’ve got over $20 billion in infrastructure. There’s a huge chunk of money for schools safety and mental health efforts, we have maintaining all of the conservative riders that we’ve had carried in previous years, which has this year been a big lift,” a House Republican aide told reporters Tuesday 

“The notion that there are going to be no domestic Republican wins in a Republican bill is ludicrous.” 

Tags Donald Trump Mark Meadows Mark Walker Paul Ryan Tom Cole

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