Conservatives pressure leaders to punt spending deals to next year

Conservatives pressure leaders to punt spending deals to next year
© Getty Images

GOP groups are seizing on Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE’s victory in an attempt to avert the long-dreaded spending deal with President Obama in the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress.

ADVERTISEMENT

Members of the Republican Study Committee are renewing their calls for leadership to hold off on negotiating this year’s spending bill process until after Obama leaves office.

RSC Chairman Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresPete Sessions wins GOP runoff in comeback bid The Hill's Campaign Report: Key races take shape in Alabama, Texas, Maine 5 key races to watch on Tuesday MORE of Texas said in an interview that his members are backing a short-term spending bill that goes through Feb. 28. That would give the next Congress and the incoming president about five weeks to approve the budget for 2017, which was initially due in September.

It’s an idea that conservatives, led by groups such as Heritage Action and FreedomWorks, had first floated this summer, long before Trump’s surprise victory on Tuesday.

Calls to kick the appropriations process into next year received a lukewarm reception on Capitol Hill earlier this year, with the prospect of a Democratic-controlled White House and Senate looming.

That calculation has now drastically changed.

With the GOP keeping control of Congress and a Republican ready to move into the White House, conservatives are newly hopeful that they can avoid a hugely unpopular omnibus deal next month.

“I think we’re going to get some traction this time,” Flores said, adding that he has heard positive signs from House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocratic super PAC quotes Reagan in anti-Trump ad set to air on Fox News: 'Are you better off?' Trump lashes out at Reagan Foundation after fundraising request The Memo: Trump's grip on GOP loosens as polls sink MORE’s (R-Wis.) office. “There’s absolutely no reason to spend any time negotiating with [retiring Senate Democratic Leader] Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill McConnell warns Democrats not to change filibuster rule MORE or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Davis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket Statehood for Puerto Rico and the obstruction of justice MORE.”

Trump’s election has entirely reshaped Congress’s plans the next four weeks, during which GOP leaders were expecting to push through one last year-end spending deal with Obama.

Republicans had planned to return to Congress next week to finish work on several appropriations bill packages, known as “mini-buses,” with the green light from Democrats.

GOP leaders now see little reason to get the other party’s approval to pass the remaining 11 appropriations bills by Dec. 9.

Neither the House nor the Senate GOP conferences have fully debriefed on the next steps for appropriations in the wake of Election Day.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP scrambles to fend off Kobach in Kansas primary Meadows: Election will be held on November third Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters his members “really haven't talked about that,” when asked about their plans on Wednesday.

The Senate GOP is expected to discuss strategy during its weekly luncheon on Tuesday, and appropriations will likely be a focus for House Republicans during their policy conference call on Thursday.

Much of the outcome will depend on Trump, who must quickly decide whether GOP leaders should clear the decks or let him get involved during the precious first 100 days of his presidency.

Trump met with both Ryan and McConnell on Thursday — their first chance to discuss the GOP’s agenda next year.

Republican leaders will face some resistance within their party if they opt for another short-term spending deal, however.

Some of the party’s defense hawks have made clear they would prefer to immediately fund the Pentagon and other key agencies rather than to waiting to secure partisan victories next year.  

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he’s worried about adding another item to Trump’s plate in the first 100 days.

“We have so much to do next year. Let’s not try to do this year’s business next year. It delays everything,” Cole told The Hill.

“This could actually get a lot of stuff done. That takes a lot of pressure off the Trump administration.”

Still, he said he would take the cue from Trump world.

“I don’t pretend to know what Mr. Trump wants. If he wanted us to do a [continuing resolution] and leave it open, then we should."

“But my advice to him would be don’t do it, You’re going to buy more trouble and it’s going to take more time than you think,” he added.

Cole and other defense hawks find themselves in the unique position of siding with the Obama White House.

Press secretary Josh Earnest made the case Thursday against another short-term bill, which would likely leave many Democratic priorities off the table.

Earnest said Obama has spoken with Republican leadership to “urge them to fulfill their basic responsibility” in passing budget bills. He specifically warned that the nation’s defense and intelligence agencies could face dangerous uncertainty under another short-term spending bill.

“Just funding them two or three or four months at a time is not a smart way to do it,” Earnest said. “The president believes it’s important to give them certainty so that they can make longer-term decisions with confidence.”

Some House Democrats, meanwhile, are fully expecting a CR — with input from Trump's team.

"We'll pass some kind of CR, and frankly, probably take our cues from the incoming administration about how long a CR they want," Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyGOP coronavirus bill includes .75 billion for construction of new FBI building Black Caucus rallies behind Meeks for Foreign Affairs gavel Ousted watchdog says he told top State aides about Pompeo probe MORE (D-Va.) said by phone Thursday.

Mike Lillis and Jordain Carney contributed.