President Trump has emerged as the wildcard as congressional leaders clamber to reach agreement on a package to keep the government funded and prevent a shutdown.
Republican leaders are keenly aware which “poison pill” provisions are non-starters with the Democrats, whose votes will be needed to send a spending bill to the president.
But Trump, who is closing in quickly on his first 100 days in office, is hungry for legislative victories after a rocky start that included the stunning failure of the Republicans’ ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill.
Sensing some urgency, the White House in recent days has amped up the pressure on GOP leaders to include several high-profile provisions –– largely immigration-related –– in the government spending package, any one of which could sink a deal and threaten a shutdown.
The White House, for instance, is now pressing hard for money to extend the U.S.-Mexico border wall –– funding the Democrats have flatly rejected and even House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Stopping the next insurrection Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE (R-Wis.) has said should come later in the year.
In the latest move, Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, said Friday that the White House would offer to fund controversial ObamaCare subsidies in return for equal funding for the border wall. The Democrats dismissed the proposal out of hand, with the office of Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerKelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Hundreds attend mass funeral for victims of Bronx apartment building fire Romney: I never got a call from White House to discuss voting rights MORE (D-N.Y.) deeming it “a complete non-starter.”
“The U.S. government is supposed to take care of its citizens and, according to the President, Mexico is supposed to pay for the wall,” Schumer spokesman Matt House said in an email. “If the administration would drop their 11th hour demand for a wall that Democrats, and a good number of Republicans oppose, Congressional leaders could quickly reach a deal.”
Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthOn the Money — Student borrowers stare down rising prices More than 30 million families to lose child tax credit checks starting this weekend On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood MORE (D-Ky.), ranking member on the House Budget Committee, said the Democrats are prepared to shut down the government if the White House insists that the wall funding be included.
“We’ll tell ‘em to pound sand,” Yarmuth told MSNBC Friday.
The wall is just one of the remaining sticking points.
Mulvaney had also stirred a hornet’s nest earlier in the month when he suggested the White House would insist that the spending package defund so-called “sanctuary cities,” the term applied to local jurisdictions that refuse to volunteer immigration-status information with federal immigration authorities. A group of nearly three-dozen House Republicans has drafted a letter urging the appropriators who are leading the negotiations to include the sanctuary cities language. But the provision is another of those on the Democrats’ non-starter list.
“The Trump White House’s radical and late-breaking demands for next week's legislative schedule … are making a bipartisan agreement to keep government open more difficult to reach,” Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said Friday.
The increasingly high-profile role of the White House in the spending debate creates a dilemma for Ryan and other GOP leaders. On one hand, they want to prove they can govern effectively and prevent a shutdown under a unified GOP government –– the first they’ve had in a decade. On the other, they want to boost their embattled ally in the White House by helping to move some of the tough immigration-enforcement measures that were central pillars of Trump’s successful campaign.
Standing in their way are Democrats who view Schumer’s filibuster power in the Senate –– combined with Ryan’s struggles to unite his fractured conference behind must-pass government spending bills –– as giving them a good deal of leverage in the debate. It’s weight they intend to use to the utmost degree.
“We have the leverage and they have the exposure,” Pelosi told House Democrats on a caucus conference call Thursday night.
The Democrats, however, are facing pressures of their own as the shutdown clock ticks ever closer to the April 28 deadline.
Immigrant rights advocates are pushing Schumer, Pelosi and the Democrats to reject any provisions in this month’s spending bill that would help the Trump administration hike deportations. The White House had requested roughly $3 billion in supplemental 2017 funding, not only for the border wall, but also to hire thousands of new immigration-enforcement agents and secure tens-of-thousands of detention beds –– both steps designed to accelerate the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
The advocates are warning that, while the border wall might be the more prominent issue, the funding for enhanced enforcement is every bit as harmful to immigrant communities if it leads to more deportations.
“In many ways the border wall has become the big symbol because the administration has talked about it quite a bit. … But that’s only one element of what this is about,” Clarissa Martinez, deputy vice president at the National Council of La Raza, said Friday by phone.
“This is a down payment on a mass deportation strategy.”