Intense Budget Blowback Forces Trump to Play Defense
President floats fall shutdown, legislative 'nuclear option' to deflect torrent of conservative outrage
Rising anger among conservatives over a Republican compromise on a temporary budget fix through the fall has forced the White House onto the defensive.
As usual, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to try to soothe the growing wave of outrage across his base.
“If he signs it, it’s another blow to his already wildly overhyped reputation as some master dealmaker.”
“The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!” said Trump in a two-part tweet. “We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51 percent. Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”
Media coverage has alternately focused on dissatisfaction among Republicans and celebration among Democrats — some who have taunted the president with claims of a budget victory for liberals.
The Washington Post considered the compromise on the five-month fix very grave for Trump: “Democrats think they have set the stage to block President Trump’s legislative priorities for years to come by winning major concessions in a spending bill to keep the government open.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) laid out all the wins for Democrats in the $1.07 trillion deal, which raises the debt ceiling to avoid a shutdown and keeps the government funded through September 30.
“The omnibus does not fund the immoral and unwise border wall or create a cruel new deportation force,” Pelosi boasted to House Democrats.
The White House hotly disputed defeat on the border wall and border security.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, held a Tuesday morning briefing with reporters in which he defended the proposed fix, and noted Democrats desperately wanted to paint Trump as someone who can not govern.
“The Dems are trying to take credit for a win,” Mulvaney told reporters. “The truth of the matter is the American people won and the president negotiated that victory for them.”
Mulvaney said Republicans won an extra $1.5 billion for border security, and noted that the wall isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. For one, the Department of Homeland Security can’t get to every part of the U.S.-Mexican border because of a lack of roads and bridges. The budget deal pays to help the border patrol access those areas, Mulvaney said.
And Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told LifeZette he and Mulvaney would detail, with posters and graphics, just how Trump will pay for and fund the border wall at the White House press briefing Tuesday. Mulvaney said the wall funding was always meant to come in Trump’s first budget, not the current budget, which former President Obama helped craft.
Trump spun the budget fix for a second time at noon, speaking before a gathering of the U.S. Air Force Academy at the White House. Trump touted the “parity” rule had been broken, which would allow better military funding. In the past, parity meant each dollar increase in defense spending had to be matched with a dollar increase in non-military spending.
Mulvaney said for the $21 billion defense increase, the Democrats only got about $4 billion in non-military spending.
“This is what winning looks like,” said Trump.
It was Trump’s suggestion to nuke the legislative filibuster that shook up Washington most.
The filibuster on Supreme Court nominees has already been “nuked,” because Democrats would not compromise on Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination. But the Senate filibuster on legislative issues is the most sacred cow in Washington, D.C., and perhaps the source of the most gridlock.
The filibuster allows one senator to effectively kill a bill if the Senate cannot get 60 votes to end the logjam. The Republicans currently have a 52-vote majority. The filibuster, which is not constitutionally required, supposedly helps the Senate reach compromise, yet in recent years, it has frozen the agenda of the majority.
Trump likely sees the filibuster as the main impediment to implementing a Republican agenda.
Yet Trump’s threat might have simply been a way to placate angry supporters who helped elect him. Trump is no doubt wounded and surprised by the intensely negative conservative reaction the temporary budget fix.
In the past, Republican activists and conservative lawmakers have argued that debt ceiling and budgetary deadlines are crucial opportunities to reform federal spending. In 2011, the new Republican House majority famously forced President Barack Obama to agree to billions of dollars in cuts.
Yet this time, there was biting mockery from both friendly outlets and the Left. Conservatives noted that Trump didn’t deliver “big league” compromises, only seeming concessions.
“All he’s left with, really, is defense spending,” said Allahpundit, an anonymous but influential blogger on Hot Air. “If he signs it, it’s another blow to his already wildly overhyped reputation as some master dealmaker. Which element of basic negotiation strategy requires you to bluff ineffectively over and over again and then sign on to a ‘compromise’ in which you give up virtually everything in return for practically nothing?”
Sensing the blowback, Capitol Hill Republicans also rushed to explain. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters on Tuesday morning that the budget fix has a military spending increase — about $21 billion — and the deal appropriates no new money to the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said the bill gives soldiers their first real pay raise in years.
Ryan said the Democrats were cranking up their public-relations efforts to crow about a false win. But as Washington learned on Tuesday, the president doesn’t like to be out-crowed.