Winners and losers from the overnight shutdown
It was a government shutdown that nobody wanted. Except maybe Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Yet because congressional leaders cut a blockbuster budget deal so close to the funding deadline, all lawmakers, aides and reporters could do was watch as Paul repeatedly blocked efforts to speed up the vote in the upper chamber.
Funding for the federal government lapsed at the stroke of midnight Thursday, though it was restored about eight and a half hours later with action from the Senate and House, and President Trump’s signature.
The sweeping, two-year budget deal is an enormous victory for Washington. It boosts military and domestic spending by $300 billion, adds another $90 billion for emergency disaster aid and throws in billions more for infrastructure, the opioid epidemic and health programs
It also hikes the debt ceiling through March 2019 and keeps the government’s lights on for another six weeks.
Still, the dramatic albeit brief shutdown — the second in just three weeks — seemed to underscore the partisan dysfunction and GOP intraparty warfare that has come to define the Trump era.
Here’s The Hill’s list of winners and losers of the Bipartisan Budget Act and the brief shutdown of 2018.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
The Speaker cleaned out most of the barn with this bipartisan deal, busting the 2011 budget caps, securing tens of billions more for the Pentagon and nondefense programs over the next two years, and taking care of a number of other must-pass items.
But unlike his predecessor, Ohio Republican John Boehner, he did not need to relinquish his Speaker’s gavel to strike such a deal. Ryan also didn’t cave to the demands of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other liberals who demanded he include protections for immigrant “Dreamers” in the budget pact.
Instead, he wants the Senate to tackle the immigration problem first.
In the end, the House easily passed the budget package 240-186, with 73 Democrats joining a majority of the GOP conference in voting “yes.”
Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, was a clear loser in the three-day shutdown in January.
Criticism of the New Yorker came from all sides, with Republicans describing it as the Schumer shutdown and Democrats asking why they blocked a funding bill only to agree to a similar deal days later.
This time, Schumer and McConnell emerged as winners, striking the bipartisan blueprint and basking in a bipartisan glow.
McConnell agreed to an immigration floor debate that will start next week, a commitment that helped end last month’s shutdown and was critical to reaching the two-year deal.
The budget pact included two tax provisions that aid McConnell’s Bluegrass State. One extends the three-year tax depreciation for racehorses, a priority of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association based in Kentucky. The other limits the excise tax on investment income at small private universities like Kentucky’s Berea College.
Goodwill gestures apparently smoothed the way for the agreement. Schumer agreed to speak on Monday at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, which trains future leaders. And during the budget talks, Schumer reportedly invited McConnell, a University of Louisville basketball fanatic, to New York when his team plays Syracuse University.
The immigration debate will create challenges for McConnell going forward, and some immigration activists will attack Schumer for leaving “Dreamers” out of the deal.
But the two leaders are winners for now.
A week ago at the GOP policy retreat in West Virginia, Defense Secretary James Mattis warned lawmakers that he simply could not train and protect his soldiers and “maintain the military on CRs,” the short-term stopgap funding measures known as continuing resolutions.
He delivered that same message in phone calls to on-the-fence lawmakers in the hours leading up to the Senate and House votes Thursday night.
The effort paid off for Mattis and defense hawks on Capitol Hill who’ve been infuriated over the past year as Congress hobbled from CR to CR to keep the government open.
Passage of the budget deal means some stability for the Pentagon for the next two years: Defense spending will see an $80 billion boost in fiscal year 2018 and another $85 billion increase in fiscal 2019.
“For too long our troops have been made hostages for other political agendas … This agreement begins to rebuild and restore America’s military,” House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement.
“It passed because Members of both parties made our security and our service members a priority.”
Freedom Caucus and deficit hawks
Fiscal conservatives rode a Tea Party wave into Washington in 2010 and 2012, vowing to drastically cut out-of-control spending and tame the nation’s debt and deficits.
With the 2018 budget agreement, Republicans did the exact opposite. The deal adds hundreds of billions of dollars in spending and hikes the nation’s borrowing limit for one year, yet virtually none of that is paid for.
Trump tweeted Friday morning that, due to a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, Republicans “were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want in order to finally, after many years of depletion, take care of our Military.”
The deal is anathema to those Tea Party bomb-throwers who went on to found the House Freedom Caucus in 2015. Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) ripped the deal as “generational theft,” while GOP Rep. Raúl Labrador, a candidate for Idaho governor, said it “breaks just about every promise House Republicans have made over the last 8 years.”
“I want to fund our military, but at what cost? Should we bankrupt our country in the process? Estimates suggest this bill will likely increase government spending by $1.5 trillion,” said Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). “I’m profoundly disappointed.”
Congressional Hispanic Caucus and immigration activists
Pro-immigration groups feel that Democrats lost major political leverage in the latest budget and funding battle.
GOP leaders staved off painful automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, significantly boosted defense money and raised the debt ceiling, while ignoring Democrats’ demands for a firm commitment to bring a bipartisan bill to the floor to protect Dreamers — immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) formally opposed the budget deal, objecting to the inaction on immigration. But 73 House Democrats went ahead and voted for the package, helping Republicans push it across the finish line.
And while McConnell will allow senators to debate and draft an immigration bill on the floor next week, Hispanic lawmakers argue that Democrats now will be playing with a much weaker hand. Ryan has said he’ll only bring an immigration bill to the floor that has Trump’s support.
“Speaker Ryan and Whip McCarthy have repeatedly shown a basic lack of understanding for the severity of this Trump-created crisis, which demands immediate action,” said CHC Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.). “If they do not give us a vote on bipartisan legislation that protects Dreamers, then they will be condoning the deportation of Dreamers.”
Sen. Rand Paul
As the clock struck midnight last night, Paul became the most despised lawmaker in the Capitol. Democrats already loathe the Tea Party favorite from Kentucky, but on Thursday night it was Republicans giving Paul an earful for delaying a vote.
McConnell sent his top deputy, Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), to the floor to deliver a message to Paul: If he didn’t relent, Paul “will effectively shut down the federal government for no real reason.”
Another GOP leader, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, called Paul’s stunt a “colossal waste of everyone’s time.”
And Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told Politico it was “easy to understand why it’s difficult to be Rand Paul’s next-door neighbor.” Last year, Paul broke several ribs after being allegedly attacked by his next-door neighbor over a landscaping dispute.
But Paul didn’t care if he was shutting down the government and keeping colleagues up past their bedtime. He had a point to make: If Republicans backed this bill, they would become the party of “trillion-dollar deficits.”
“I want people to feel uncomfortable” voting in favor of big deficits, he said, according to USA Today.
Despite the backlash from colleagues, deficit hawks cheered Paul’s speech as the hashtag #StandWithRand began trending on Twitter.
And Paul wasn’t completely alone as he railed against spending and deficits on the Senate floor. His closest friends from the House, Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), crossed the Capitol and sat in the back of the Senate chamber to offer Paul moral support.
“#StandWithRand,” Massie tweeted with a photograph of the conservative trio.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
The California Democrat won praise from liberals and immigration activists for her record-breaking, eight-hour-plus, filibuster-style speech this week calling on Ryan to address the Dreamers.
It drew attention to the plight of the Dreamers and demonstrated to her fired-up base that she was willing to stand up and fight for them on immigration.
But the praise was short-lived.
Democrats, as well as Republicans, said Pelosi sent mixed signals to her members on Thursday when she came out against the budget package, then called an emergency caucus meeting to tell lawmakers they could vote their conscience.
There was a lingering sense among many Democrats that, despite Pelosi’s stated opposition, she actually wanted it passed, leaving her to put on a show of fighting for immigration to appease the party’s activist base while working privately to ensure the government did not shut down and that key priorities such as disaster aid were funded.
Asked if Pelosi and Democratic leaders are privately relieved that the bill passed, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) did not hesitate.
“Yes,” he said just after the vote, noting that Pelosi was in a “very tight” spot.
Republican leaders tried to exploit what they saw as Pelosi’s waffling on the issue.
“She didn’t have any cohesive message … and in the end her team broke. I see a fractured caucus on the other side,” Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said after the House vote.
“To me, it’s a fascinating display of a bipartisan win and at the same time Democrats ripping themselves apart about a bipartisan agreement. It doesn’t make any damn sense.”
Mike Lillis and Melanie Zanona contributed.
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