Dems unite against Trump’s budget  — but challenges coming

House Democrats are banding together this week in opposition to President Trump’s 2020 budget proposal, but the unity may prove to be short-lived as party leaders prepare their own budget blueprint in the weeks ahead.

Democrats are coming off of a trying week following an uproar over controversial remarks from freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — an episode that both distracted from their ambitious legislative agenda and exposed internal fissures within the diverse caucus.

Trump’s budget has provided the party a chance to regroup, as Democrats of all stripes are bashing the president’s spending wish list and using the document as a way to unite around their shared values.


Yet drafting their 2020 budget blueprint will be much tougher for Democrats than attacking that of the president, forcing the party to make formal endorsements of their own policy priorities amid simmering internal disagreements over how best to approach health care, immigration, climate change and a host of other thorny issues.

The Democrats’ most liberal wing has also emerged as its most vocal, and those progressives have pressed hard for party leaders to embrace a long list of policy provisions that would yank the party to the left just as the pivotal 2020 election cycle gets rolling. 

The left’s priority list includes a “Medicare for all” health care system, a Green New Deal to tackle climate change and the elimination of funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — all of which will likely alienate more moderate Democrats fighting to keep their seats in conservative-leaning districts next year.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is currently drafting the Democrats’ plan, which could prove to be controversial as much for what it includes as for what it doesn’t. 

Yarmuth on Monday downplayed the notion that the budget document will be divisive, noting that he’s meeting with lawmakers across the party’s ideological spectrum — including, recently, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — who he said have so far been receptive to his emerging plan.

“They seem to be pretty much on board with … the direction we’re moving in. They’re not putting a lot of pressure on us to include Green New Deal, that type of thing, in the budget document,” Yarmuth told reporters during a Monday roundtable on Capitol Hill. 

“So far we haven’t run into any huge ideological obstacles to putting together a reasonable budget resolution.”

Yet outside groups are clamoring for Democrats to take a bold stand when it comes to the most prominent issues facing Washington. They had accused party leaders of being too timid in embracing liberal policies during the 2016 cycle, when Trump took the White House and Republicans retained both chambers of Congress. They’re fighting now to ensure it doesn’t happen again next year.


“Democrats have to put forward a concrete vision and plan for how they plan to govern through systemic crises in this country — climate change, skyrocketing inequality, structural racism,” Waleed Shahid, spokesman for the Justice Democrats, said Monday in an email. 

“Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, high taxes on the ultra-rich, and ending mass incarceration and deportation are solutions that match the scale of the crises that working families are facing right now.”

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, went a step further, warning that a failure of Democrats to champion proposals like Medicare for all and the Green New Deal would “send a signal that they’re out of touch” with public sentiment — and could “put them on a collision course” with their own 2020 nominee.

“Democrats are consistently good at shooting themselves in the foot and taking some of the most popular ideas off the table,” Green said. “At a minimum, there should be down payments on these goals so Democrats can campaign on them with authenticity in 2020.”

Yarmuth and other Democratic members of the Budget Committee say they’re not ready to embrace those proposals — at least not as part of the coming budget package.

“What we have to try to do is be practical,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a member of the committee. “The thing I don’t want us to do is to embrace goals that we can’t achieve. It’s fine to lay them out; but I actually want to get something done for the people that we’re concerned about, not just be on their side.

Yarmuth on Monday outlined several parts of the Democrats’ coming budget bill, which he’s aiming to introduce in the first week of April. On the health care front, he said it will feature efforts to bolster the Affordable Care Act and lower drug costs, in lieu of Medicare for all. It will also include an overhaul of the immigration system, he said, modeled on the 2013 immigration bill passed by the Senate. And it will feature language — but not specific proposals — for reining in climate change.

Yarmuth said the pressure campaigns he’s seeing are for Democrats to sign on to specific bills, but not in the context of the larger budget proposal. 

“They’re pushing for co-sponsorships and support but I don’t think they’ve actually put pressure on us from a budgetary perspective,” he said.

Trump, unveiling his latest budget proposal Monday, made it easy for the Democrats to unite against him. 

The sweeping document includes a host of Republican priorities that are anathema to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and virtually every member of her caucus — a conservative wish list that includes across-the-board cuts to domestic spending, the erosion of social safety net programs like food stamps, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the elimination of some environmental protections and $8.6 billion for his promised border wall. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), not mincing words, said the package “reflects the Trump Administration’s separation from reality.”

Pelosi characterized the proposed cuts as a “cruel and shortsighted … roadmap to a sicker, weaker America.”

And Yarmuth called it “a recipe for American decline” — one he intends to ignore as he drafts the Democrats’ alternative. 

“Clearly, we have a very different set of values and priorities,” he said. “Ours will be a very realistic budget resolution.”

Tags 2020 Budget Dan Kildee Donald Trump Ilhan Omar John Yarmuth Nancy Pelosi Steny Hoyer
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video