WASHINGTON - Seeking to avoid another unpopular government shutdown, Senate leaders have hammered out a long-term, big spending budget deal that will give President Trump the defense spending hikes he wants, along with much higher domestic spending sought by Democrats.
The bipartisan package would also include additional funding for disaster relief assistance, new infrastructure spending, new programs to deal with the opioid crisis, and bigger budgets for departments and agencies across the government.
When it became apparent that no budget bill could pass the Senate without Democratic support, nor for that matter clear the House, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky entered into an unholy alliance with Democratic Leader Charles Schumer of New York that has Republican budget hawks screaming bloody murder.
“This spending bill is a debt junkie’s dream. I’m not only a no, I’m a hell no,” complained Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who said the budget compromise would lead to trillion dollar deficits.
“It’s the wrong thing to do because it’s not consistent with what we told the American people we were going to do, and what they elected us to do,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
Making matters worse was the likelihood that no budget bill at this point would include immigration reform, which has all but dropped out of the budget negotiations.
“I don’t think that we expect the budget deal to include specifics on the immigration reform,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “But we want to get a deal.”
Trump wasn’t helping matters on the budget front, either, when he said on Tuesday, “I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of [on immigration]. If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety… let’s shut it down.”
Trump wants to allow so-called “dreamers”, 1.8 million young children brought into the U.S. many years ago by their illegal immigrant parents, to remain in the country, but also $25 billion to build a wall on the Mexican-U.S. border, along with other security systems, and an end to family-based immigration.
Congressional critics of the wall are offering only a fraction of the funding he is seeking and oppose his plan to end family-based immigration and birthright citizenship.
“Any deal on DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time,” Trump tweeted this week.
Still, he appeared to offer a compromise in his State of the Union address when he extended “an open hand” to allow DACA immigrants to stay in the country.
As the battle lines were drawn by mid-week, the major pro-immigrant bill was a bipartisan proposal authored by GOP Senators John McCain of Arizona and Christopher A. Coons of Delaware.
In a conference call with reporters this week, Coons said, “My concern is that now senators are saying the fallback position should be almost literally doing nothing like a one year DACA bill and a one year border bill.”
The McCain-Coons bill “stands between those two poles,” Coons said.
It does not authorize the $25 billion for Trump’s wall, but it does call for strengthening border security through high tech systems and drones, and requires the Department of Homeland Security to produce a comprehensive border plan within a year.
But for the time being the focus on Capitol Hill was on the deficit-busting spending bill engineered by McConnell that has deeply divided House and Senate Republicans and their conservative campaign supporters.
Charles and David Koch, the two billionaire brothers, who have heavily bankrolled many conservative causes and GOP campaigns, put out a statement saying that the budget deal was “a betrayal of American taxpayers and a display of the absolute unwillingness of members of Congress to adhere to any sort of responsible budgeting behavior.”
The conservative Club for Growth that rates lawmakers on their spending and tax cut votes urged Republicans “to vote NO on the Schumer-McConnell deal.”
Declaring that the budget would bust the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Club said “it’s clear that McConnell and the GOP establishment want to speed up the big government freight train with the help of big spending liberals on the other side of the aisle.”
“This is a bad, bad, bad, bad… deal,” Rep. Jim Jordan said. “When you put it all together, a quarter-of-a-trillion dollar increase in discretionary spending — [is] not what we’re supposed to be doing.”