Democrats are lashing out at the notion that President Trump and GOP leaders may seek to eliminate some of the funding increases in the enormous 2018 spending package adopted less than two weeks ago.
Republicans have come under fire in their districts during the spring recess after supporting the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill, which provides a huge bump in both defense and domestic spending, adding hundreds of billions of dollars to federal deficits. In response, Trump and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are reportedly in talks to tap an obscure provision of a decades-old budget law to prune some of the spending increases from the package.
Democrats, who supported the omnibus only after receiving funds for their domestic priorities, said any GOP effort to make after-the-fact changes would be a major betrayal.
“It would completely poison the well to the idea that there can be responsible bipartisan compromise,” said Matthew Dennis, a spokesman for Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. The Republicans, Dennis added, are trying “to renege on elements that were critical to passage of the omnibus.”
“It’s a bill that was signed into law with Democratic and Republican votes and with the signature of the president. And they apparently didn’t like the way it played in the media afterwards, so now they’re going to try to call for a do-over,” he said.
“That’s just not how it works.”
Signed by Trump late last month, the omnibus package provided a $143 billion increase over previous spending caps — $80 billion for defense and $63 billion for nondefense domestic programs. Yet budget watchdogs estimate the hikes are much higher. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reported that additional off-tab fundingwould result in $251 billion spent above the previous limits.
Conservative fiscal hawks are incredulous that Republican leaders — who spent years bashing President Obama for “dangerous” deficits — would reverse course and champion billions of dollars in new unfunded spending now that they control all levels of power in Washington. Ninety House Republicans voted against the omnibus last month, largely to protest the spending hikes, with many grumbling that GOP leaders had become “hypocrites” when it comes to tackling the nation’s debt.
Trump and McCarthy are reportedly in talks to appease those critics by leaning on a part of a 1974 law, the Congressional Budget and Impound Control Act, which allows the administration to propose a revocation of certain funds. Congress would then have 45 days to either consider the proposed rescissions or ignore them. The Associated Press first reported the story Tuesday.
It’s unclear if the idea is gaining steam in the GOP conference, or even if other Republican leaders outside of McCarthy, who has increasingly aligned himself with Trump, are on board. The offices of both McCarthy and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) did not respond Thursday to requests for comment.
Democrats have not been so silent. Mariel Saez, a spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said the Republicans are pursuing a “political stunt to appease their base just weeks after they touted the bill as an important compromise.”
“If they propose to cut important funding for early childhood education, the opioid crisis, infrastructure, public safety, and other domestic priorities, then they can expect strong Democratic opposition,” Saez said in an email.
The omnibus rescissions are not the only effort Republicans are considering to temper the fallout from the ballooning deficit spending under their watch. The House this month is expected to vote on a balanced budget amendment (BBA), a constitutional change requiring Congress to eliminate deficit spending altogether. The measure has no chance of becoming law, but will lend vulnerable Republicans a talking point as they head into a tough election cycle facing conservative voters up in arms over skyrocketing deficits.
Democrats have been quick to hammer that push as well, noting that the Republicans’ tax overhaul, adopted in December, is projected to add more than $1 trillion to deficits even taking into consideration its effects on economic growth.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) characterized the BBA vote as “the height of chutzpah.”
“You just voted to add $1.5 trillion, at least — maybe $2 trillion — to the debt with the tax-cut bill, and now sanctimoniously you come back saying, ‘We’ve got to rein in the debt?’” Connolly told The Hill this week. “We’re all high school graduates here. We can kind of see that for what it is.
“I don’t think they’re going to fool the voters at all with that kind of tactic.”