Several days after its promised arrival, Republican congressional leaders released the text of the $1.3 trillion omnibus budget late Wednesday night, and must pass the 2,232-page bill by Friday night to avoid yet another government shutdown.
The White House confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Trump plans to sign the bill if it makes it through Congress, saying: “The President and the leaders discussed their support for the bill, which includes more funds to rebuild the military, such as the largest pay raise for our troops in a decade, more than 100 miles of new construction for the border wall and other key domestic priorities, like combatting the opioid crisis and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.”
Conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill, however, are not pleased, saying the bill includes many provisions they oppose, such as a modest strengthening of the gun background check database, and fails to include many they favored, such as full funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“There’s no joy in Mudville,” House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) complained Wednesday afternoon. “The wins for conservatives will be few and far between.”
Meadows and other House and Senate Republicans railed against the omnibus on Wednesday ahead of the release of the final text, expressing displeasure that the bill does not defund sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood, and only appropriates $1.6 billion of the $25 billion President Trump originally demanded for a border wall.
“There is really no wall funding,” Meadows lamented. “If we’re going to build a $25 billion wall at $1.6 billion a year, that means funding it over a 15 year period. To my knowledge, this President won’t be in office in 15 years.”
The immigration section of the budget does, however, include several concessions from Democrats. It has no relief for young immigrants under the now-defunct Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program who are currently living in legal limbo, and it includes increased funding for the Border Patrol and ICE sought by the administration.
The omnibus attempts to thread the needle on funding for the Gateway rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey. Because Trump has threatened to veto the entire budget if the funding is included, there are no dollars in the bill specifically designated for the Gateway project. There are, however, pots of infrastructure funding that could be used for the repairs, but that money would fall short of the $900 million needed.
Meadows called this compromise “smoke and mirrors.”
The money is in there and it is designated in a way that it will be used for the tunnel. To say it’s not an earmark is a technical definition,” he said, adding dryly: “It is troubling when we get a tunnel and we don’t get a wall. Last time I checked, the President didn’t make any promises about a tunnel in any of his campaign stops.”
Other Freedom Caucus members raised concerns that the bill includes a provision to incentivize states and federal agencies to send more information to the gun background check database. The House already passed a bill that include the so-called “Fix NICS” policy, but it was coupled with a provision opposed by Democrats that would have expanded concealed carry.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said GOP leadership broke their promise to keep the two policies linked together, as the omnibus only includes the former and not the later.
“They told us it would not come back alone, that they were committed to the position we were committed to,” Jordan said. “This allows bureaucrats to take away people’s Second Amendment liberties and make a determination about whether you’re fit to have a firearm and not a court of law.”
House Conservatives are also irked that GOP leadership did not release the bill until Wednesday evening, breaking their past pledge that all bills would be released at least three days in advance of a vote to give lawmakers a chance to read the text.
“That is a very, very troubling sign,” Meadows said. “There is not a single member of Congress who can, physically, read it, unless they’re a speed-reader.”
The House aims to pass the bill on Thursday, and because dozens of House Republicans are likely to vote against it, leaders will be relying on Democratic votes to get it across the finish line. In the Senate, because of the tight-deadline, leaders will try to pass the bill by unanimous consent, meaning any one disgruntled senator can object and potentially trigger a government shutdown. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who triggered the previous government shutdown, hinted Wednesday that he may do so again.
It’s a good thing we have Republican control of Congress or the Democrats might bust the budget caps, fund planned parenthood and Obamacare, and sneak gun control without due process into an Omni…wait, what?
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 21, 2018
Despite Paul’s assertion that the bill might “fund Obamacare,” a package to short up the ACA’s damaged individual market did not make it into the final bill, scuttled due to Democratic opposition to a provision expanding an existing ban on federal funding of abortions to private insurance plans.