President Trump and Congress have until this Saturday to strike a budget deal or face a government shut down. Not surprisingly, Trump decided to kick off what will undoubtedly be a week of tense negotiations with some opening shots across the bow via Twitter:
ObamaCare is in serious trouble. The Dems need big money to keep it going - otherwise it dies far sooner than anyone would have thought.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2017
The Democrats don't want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2017
Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2017
The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)! If— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2017
Throughout his campaign Trump touted several policies which would require massive increases in government spending including his infrastructure plan, new military funding and the border wall. That said, at least in this round of Congressional bickering, it looks like the border wall will be key issue which could leave 1,000s of federal government employees with a little extra paid vacation time in 2017.
As negotiations continue, the White House says it has offered to include $7 billion in Obamacare subsidies that allow low-income people to pay for health insurance in exchange for Democratic backing for $1.5 billion in funding to start construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Congressional negotiators have also offered to cut back Trump's proposed $30 billion increase in defense spending.
“The question is, how much of our stuff do we have to get? How much of their stuff are they willing to take?” budget director Mick Mulvaney said on Bloomberg Television. “We’d offer them one dollar” of Obamacare payments, he added, “for one dollar of wall payments right now.”
Democrats called Mulvaney’s Obamacare offer a non-starter, saying they refuse to include any funds for a wall in the spending bill that would finance the government through September, the end of the fiscal year.
While Republicans control Congress, any budget deal will have to be passed on a bipartisan basis as members of the Freedom Caucus typically refuse to support unbalanced budgets in the House and Senate approval will require 60 votes while Republicans hold only 52 seats.
It’s a rare moment when the Democrats have leverage in the Republican-controlled House, since it’s likely that Republican leaders would need at least some Democratic votes to offset Republican defections on the budget -- as has been the case for a series of budget fights in recent years.
One thing is certain: any spending deal must be a bipartisan one. Even though Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan know they’ll both need Democratic votes to pass a government funding measure.
The Senate needs 60 votes to advance legislation, meaning the 52 Republicans will need help from at least eight Democrats. In the House, conservatives led by the Freedom Caucus and other fiscal hawks have regularly bolted on spending bills and Democrats have provided enough votes for passage.
Not surprisingly, Chuck Schumer described Trump's border wall is the only "fly in the ointment" to getting a budget deal done.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s spokesman, Matt House, complained that the White House in recent days brought a “heavy hand” into what he said were smooth-going talks between congressional Republicans and Democrats.
“If the administration would drop their 11th-hour demand for a wall that Democrats, and a good number of Republicans, oppose, congressional leaders could quickly reach a deal,” House said in a statement Friday.
"The only fly in the ointment is that the president is being a little heavy handed, and mixing in and asking for things such as the wall," Schumer said.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi went on Chuck Todd's “Meet the Press” over the weekend to start playing the "blame game" over who's responsible for a government shut down that hasn't yet occurred.
“The democrats do not support the wall. And I think the Republicans in the border states do not support the wall. The Republicans have the votes in the House and the Senate and the White House to keep government open. The burden to keep it open is on the Republicans.”
"The wall, in my view, is immoral, expensive and unwise...."
And here is Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaking with Bloomberg:
Of course, the budget showdown comes just as Trump continues to pressure Congress to vote on a new healthcare deal this week and has promised to release his tax plan on Wednesday...both of which would be a poke in the eye of Democrats just as he's trying to win their support on a budget deal. Should be a fun week with lots of flip flops.