Top Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care

Top Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE on Wednesday signaled that he won't oppose a Senate plan to allow some Veterans Affairs health care funding to be exempted from budget caps.  

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, met with Trump and their staff at the White House to discuss how to fund the government, as senators prepare to start working on bills as soon as next month. 

Shelby said on Wednesday that they were planning to move forward with that plan after the president said he would be "neutral" on how Congress addressed the VA funding hole.

ADVERTISEMENT

"He said he was okay. He said he understood the problem. That he’d be neutral, in other words, [on] whatever we did on this. So that's where we're going to try to do," Shelby said. 

Asked if Trump was saying he would accept Congress's decision, Shelby added that Trump "said he understood it. He used the word, he was okay ... I told him we were going to do this, how we were going to do it." 

The White House meeting came after Shelby and Senate Republicans agreed last week that they would consider funding the VA Mission Act — a 2018 law that expands veterans access to private doctors — as "emergency" spending, which would exempt it from the budget caps. 

Overall nondefense spending for fiscal 2021, which includes the VA, was agreed to as part of a two-year budget deal. That means if senators include more money for the VA without changing the budget cap, they have to strip funding from other nondefense programs.

That would have ramifications for the top-line spending figures for all 12 funding bills, known as 302 (b)s, which the Senate Appropriations Committee still needs to pass.

ADVERTISEMENT

Republicans signaled last week that they had drafted top-line numbers but wanted to try to resolve the VA funding issue before moving forward. 

"It would certainly solve a lot of problems if it was considered an emergency, particularly if that's what the House is going to do," said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership and the Appropriations Committee.

Congress has until the end of September to pass the 12 fiscal 2021 government funding bills or a continuing resolution that would continue funding at the fiscal 2020 level.

Shelby said on Wednesday that they would now “finish up our allocations, go from there and probably have some hearings, markups after we get back."

"It’ll probably take a couple of weeks after we get back. This is all a lot of work," he added.