Given the House’s scheduled August recess, Congress now has less than two weeks’ worth of legislative days to pass spending bills to avoid another government shutdown on October 1. With the clock ticking, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with President Trump at the White House Wednesday to discuss their government funding plans.
The congressional Republicans were mum on the details of the meeting after they emerged, but Ryan told “Fox & Friends” beforehand that the leaders would talk about getting the annual appropriation process “back on track” — and about Trump’s demands for funding for his border wall with Mexico, a potential sticking point since Democrats oppose it but their votes will be needed in the Senate to prevent a shutdown.
Politico reported Tuesday that McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have agreed to combine the two largest appropriations bills, including funding for Defense and domestic spending for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, into one package that could potentially be voted on before August 6. “That would make the package difficult for President Donald Trump to veto, even though the domestic piece of it, which includes health and education programs, would vastly exceed his own budget request,” Politico’s Sarah Ferris noted.
Difficult to veto, but not impossible.
Reaching a spending deal would allow members of Congress, and the White House, to avoid a bruising fight — or an embarrassing shutdown — just ahead of the midterm elections, when lawmakers would prefer to be on the campaign trail. But House Republicans might balk at the non-defense spending in the package — and Trump, as always, is a wild card.
The president “wants Congress to appropriate the full amount for the wall he wants to build between the U.S. and Mexico,” budget expert Stan Collender wrote on his blog, “and he very likely sees the GOP leadership’s strong desire to get its members out-of-town as soon as possible as increased leverage to get that.”