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GOP set to move $854B spending bill despite Trump criticisms

The Hill logo The Hill 9/23/2018 Niv Elis

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Hill The House this week is expected to pass an $854 billion spending bill that will prevent a shutdown, despite complaints from President Trump and the right that in doing so, their party is busting the budget and betraying its fiscally conservative credentials.

Trump called the bill "ridiculous" on Thursday and called on Republicans to "finally get tough."

Conservative organizations are urging lawmakers to vote no, and conservative GOP lawmakers such as Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) have voiced their own complaints.

"We spent a massive amount more and we abandoned frankly nearly all of the promises we campaigned on," Davidson said. "You may as well call it the broken promises act of 2018."

The bill includes a full year of funding for defense, a top Republican priority, and the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill, a top Democratic priority. It also includes a funding extension to keep the government open until December 7th, past the September 30th deadline and the midterm elections.

There's been little organization behind the opposition, and opponents appear to face a futile task given the cooperation on the bills by GOP and Democratic leaders as well as appropriators in both parties.

When the Senate voted on it last week, it passed by a lopsided 93-7 vote.

"This bill funds things we said we wouldn't, like Planned Parenthood, but doesn't fund things we said we would, like the border security wall. That's unacceptable. Republicans need to actually do what we said," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is running for Speaker.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said he's not sure whether the president should use his veto pen to make good on the promise, but expressed dismay at the situation.

"The wall is one issue, but the fact that we're not trimming spending anywhere, that we're not bringing the budget into balance anywhere. I'm not saying he should or shouldn't veto it, but that makes the bill unpalatable."

Biggs is offering up a standalone bill to fund the wall, but does not expect GOP leadership to push it ahead.

"If you want to get tough, you do a standalone bill, and you let the world know who supports this and who doesn't," he said.

Behind the scenes, conservative Republicans are frustrated that Trump hasn't taken tougher action, and that his Tweets amount to little more than "saber rattling."

"The problem that we have right now is the president has cried wolf a few too many times on wall funding," said one GOP aide.

Some congressional conservatives would be ready to fight for the wall, but feel that the administration backs down when spending bills comes up, the aide continued.

"If he wants the wall, he has to threaten a veto, and he has to execute it. And that's what conservatives are hoping he'll do," the aide said.

Trump, the aide noted, has the ear of the Republican base, and could commit to driving the issue of the wall forward. He could demand a stand-alone bill on the wall or make it a top priority by leading behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Some conservatives agree that the president could do more to force the issue.

"I think he's done a pretty good job overall. I think spending is one area that he could have been more forceful,' said Davidson.

Commentator Ann Coulter criticized Trump on Friday for going for tax cuts instead of pushing the wall.

"GREAT idea to start with tax cuts and blow off the wall! Keep listening to that advisor, @realDonaldTrump," she wrote on Twitter.

With only a week left until the government's funding deadline, however, Trump has little room for maneuver short of instigating a government shutdown a month ahead of the midterm elections.

On Friday, with little fanfare, he signed the first package of spending bills into law.


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