Progressives threaten to derail major Dem spending proposal

A House Democratic deal to increase federal defense spending by $17 billion and nondefense spending by $34 billion is in deep danger as liberals press for more spending on domestic issues.

Democrats leaving a closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday said it was unclear whether the deal would have the votes on the floor this week to win passage.

"The whip team right now is not very sure of where we are," said Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthDivided Dems look to regroup On The Money — Presented by Job Creators Network — GOP senators urge Trump not to nominate Cain | Treasury expected to miss Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Party divisions force Dems to scrap budget vote | House passes IRS reform bill Left-center divide forces Dems to scrap budget vote MORE (D-Ky.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

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Democratic leadership had expected to bring the bill up on Tuesday or Wednesday, ahead of a three-day Democratic issues retreat, but sustained opposition from progressives may delay or possibly scuttle the bill’s chances.

“I don’t know when we’re going to vote, to be very honest with you. So there is no clarity on when there is a vote,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroDemocratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Progressives threaten to derail major Dem spending proposal GOP on defensive over Dem votes on policies geared toward women MORE (D-Conn.), an appropriator and member of the Budget Committee. DeLauro, who is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), said she would vote for the deal crafted by Yarmuth.

The Budget Committee last week advanced a bill that would increase defense and nondefense spending to $664 billion and $631 billion, respectively, despite objections from progressives who want to freeze military funding or further boost spending for nondefense programs.
 
Three of the 15 progressives on the committee opposed the bill.
 
Yarmuth said that finding consensus among House Democrats would give the party a chance to show it can govern and negotiate with the GOP-controlled Senate and White House, which wants to slash nondefense spending while boosting defense spending.
 
"We have to figure out whether we're going to be able to govern or not. And this is the first test of it," Yarmuth said.
 
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"I understand that some people would want more. I would want more," Yarmuth said of nondefense spending. "I don't want as much defense spending as is in the bill. But, again, we're involved ultimately in a three-way negotiation on the caps. And we think these numbers are the ones that position us best with the Senate and the White House."
 
When asked if the potential for progressive defections reminded him of GOP infighting when Republicans were in the majority, Yarmuth replied, "It's like looking in the mirror."
 
Progressives are offering several amendments to the legislation. One, from CPC co-chair Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOvernight Health Care: How 2020 Dems want to overhaul health care | Brooklyn parents sue over measles vaccination mandate | Measles outbreak nears record Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Dems counter portrait of discord MORE (D-Wash.), would increase nondefense spending to the same level as defense spending. Another, from Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeProgressives threaten to derail major Dem spending proposal Speaker in waiting? Rapid rise of Hakeem Jeffries fuels talk Congress should look into its own taxes and travel, not just Trump's MORE (D-Calif.), would move $10 billion in spending on a veterans program to an off-book account, clearing the way for other programs.
 
Jayapal said she and other proponents are whipping support for their amendments. She said many liberals would prefer cuts to the defense side outright, but recognizing that such a proposal would likely fail in the GOP-controlled Senate, they are pushing for a boost in nondefense instead.
 
"If my amendment passes, I think we could get ... a majority, if not all, of the Progressive Caucus members to vote for this [caps deal]. Without that, there are people in our caucus who have been here for decades who have never voted for this kind of a military spending number," she said.
 
"So we have got to be able to show the American people that we understand that this is too high of a number. And that in the interim of not controlling all three branches of government, that we are doing what we can to at least invest in what is now the worst inequality since 1920."
 
Supporters of Jayapal's amendment said they have the most leverage in the debate — not pushing to reduce defense spending but fighting for a hike in nondefense domestic funding to address growing inequality.
 
"We do think though that ... we should negotiate in our strongest place. And our strongest place is saying we want more nondefense spending. So that's where many of us are," Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers Dems counter portrait of discord Divided Dems look to regroup MORE (D-Wis.), co-chair of the CPC, said.
 
Asked how many members of the CPC would oppose a caps deal without the additional domestic spending, Pocan didn't hesitate.
 
"Enough that it wouldn't pass," he said. "I think they'll have a very difficult time passing it without our amendment."
 
“I just think there’s a math problem for them, period," he added.
 
Other liberals, though, said they'd likely support the deal even without the additional money.