Senate reaches deal with Democrats to pass budgets; but will president go along?

Mitch McConnell & Senate Republicans Press Conference 7/31/18
Mitch McConnell & Senate Republicans Press Conference 7/31/18

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and leadership colleagues speak to reporters about several issues, including federal spending legislation, the nominat...

Mark Trahant

Senate leaders would like 90 percent of the federal budget to move forward next month, including Interior Appropriations

Resolved: Republicans really want to govern.

The case for: Senate leaders are saying that much of the federal budget will pass this month with votes from Democrats.

The case against: The House remains divided and President Donald J. Trump has threatened to shut the government down unless Congress funds a border wall.

Republicans are now less than a hundred days away from the mid-term election. And that changes everything. (Related coverage: Native candidates make history)

At a Senate news conference Tuesday, Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said he has reached a deal with Democrats to move forward with 90 percent of the federal budget, appropriations bills for Defense, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Labor.

“Our hope is by the end of August the Senate will approve nine of 12 appropriations bills, which means 90 percent of the funding of the federal government — from the Senate point of view — will be done through the regular order before we get to Labor Day,” McConnell said. He said he hopes the House will move quickly so that common ground can be found before the fiscal year ends on September 30. (The Interior Appropriations bill that includes the the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are included in this regular order process.)

As part of the deal, Republicans have agreed to avoid policy riders that make it impossible to round up votes from Democrats. It will take 60 votes in the Senate for legislation to be passed.

That’s the governing part. Or in the language of Washington, regular order.

The House leadership would very much like to do something similar. Last week House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, said the House could pass several spending bills before the deadline. But, he added, “there will be some bills that don’t pass, that won’t be ready or done by then” and a short-term Continuing Resolution will be needed for those.

One such bill is the House’s plan to spend $5 billion on Homeland Security. The Senate’s version is far less, $1.6 billion, as well as requirements that funds only be used to reinforce existing physical barriers. Democrats like Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont call the House bill a “non-starter.”

This is where the governing part gets confusing. While McConnell and Ryan are championing the regular order and a functioning Congress, the president is saying something else.

President Trump was at a rally of his supporters Tuesday night and said: "I am not like other politicians. You have seen what happens. I have kept my promises."

One such promise is a government shutdown to force Democrats to vote for the construction of a border wall. He said he "may have to do some pretty drastic things … ‘cause the Democrats are not voting for what we want to do, and they're not voting and allowing our values to take place in our country."

No matter what budgets come out of Congress -- the House version or the Senate’s plan -- the president would still have to sign the legislation into law. Most likely that will be in the form of a compromise bill that includes either spending the president does not like or less money than he would like for his border enforcement. So it will be up to the president to close the government without help from Congress.

And many of his supporters want him to do just that. Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin told Fox & Friends that there is a longstanding fight within the Republican Party. "The biggest enemies here are not necessarily the open-borders Democrats,” she said. “They're doing what they always do. It is those Republicans in Washington, D.C. who are willing to throw President Trump and his voters and supporters under the bus to preserve their own power.”

There is one more theory worth a mention. A column in Roll Call says Trump might be trying to throw the midterm elections in order to cast a new villain for his re-election reality show. "A Democratic House and Senate would allow Trump to blame everything from North Korean nukes to Chinese tariffs on Congress," writes Walter Shapiro. "In Trump’s telling, if a dinner steak at the White House in 2019 were served medium rare instead of well done, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer would somehow be responsible."

But that would mean Trump would tank his fellow Republicans in order to make him self look better.

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter -@TrahantReports



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