McConnell Pushes House GOP on Budget

The Senate leader wants to devote three months to appropriations bills. Will Republicans be able to agree on a spending blueprint first?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Daniel Newhauser
Add to Briefcase
Daniel Newhauser
March 1, 2016, 8 p.m.

It’s nor­mal for mem­bers of the House to urge the Sen­ate to stop ob­struct­ing and move some bills. On Tues­day, the roles were re­versed.

Still, a vis­it by Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell on Tues­day did little to change the minds of House Re­pub­lic­ans who want to turn course on the Oc­to­ber budget deal in fa­vor of a lower spend­ing blue­print.

Mc­Con­nell told mem­bers in a private House GOP meet­ing he wants to de­vote three months of Sen­ate floor time to ap­pro­pri­ations bills, but to do so he needs the House to send him le­gis­la­tion first, as re­quired by the Con­sti­tu­tion’s Art­icle 1, Sec­tion 7, which states that rev­en­ue bills have to ori­gin­ate in the House.

He and House GOP lead­ers have been push­ing for the lower cham­ber to pass a budget at $1.07 tril­lion, like the Oc­to­ber agree­ment, so the two cham­bers would be work­ing from the same num­bers. Lead­ers even brought in Sen. James Lank­ford, a former Baptist youth min­is­ter and House mem­ber, who is now a Sen­ate ap­pro­pri­at­or, to re­as­sure his former col­leagues that the Sen­ate plans to move on the spend­ing bills. Un­for­tu­nately for lead­ers, none of it seems to have worked.

“Sen­at­or Mc­Con­nell was spot on. He un­der­stands his body has to get their work done,” Rep. Frank Lu­cas said. “That said, clearly there’s no con­sensus about how to ad­dress the budget res­ol­u­tion in the House or to be­gin the ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess or to get that work on the Sen­ate ap­pro­pri­at­ors’ desks.”

Part of the prob­lem is that a large num­ber of mem­bers are skep­tic­al that the Sen­ate would move on ap­pro­pri­ations bills, and doubly skep­tic­al of Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id’s pledge last year to al­low the bills to come to the floor. House Re­pub­lic­ans’ con­tin­ued in­de­cision about how to move for­ward on the budget may come to a head Thursday, when they will meet again be­hind closed doors to dis­cuss how, or in­deed wheth­er, to move for­ward.

Lu­cas said he un­der­stands why his col­leagues are skep­tic­al of the Sen­ate, but he has been mak­ing the case that stalling the pro­cess would be a bad idea not just from a prac­tic­al stand­point, but also polit­ic­ally. He said do­ing noth­ing would give any can­did­ate—be it Hil­lary Clin­ton or Don­ald Trump—am­muni­tion to run against an in­ef­fec­tu­al Con­gress.

“Skep­ti­cism, I think, is a re­flec­tion of con­cern based on past pre­ced­ent, and maybe a few of my col­leagues would just as soon noth­ing be done and it makes their lives sim­pler,” he said. “But the United States Con­gress and the United States Sen­ate are the goat of every pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, and will con­tin­ue to be the goat of every pres­id­en­tial cam­paign in­to Novem­ber if we don’t get our work done.”

But Rep. Trent Franks noted that mem­bers who are work­ing on the pre­sup­pos­i­tion that the Sen­ate won’t move on any ap­pro­pri­ations bills be­lieve that the House should, at the very least, pass a budget that re­flects the will of their cham­ber.

“We’ve waited per­haps too long to ad­dress this, but we still have to do the best we can,” Franks said. “If there is no chance—and it seems an enorm­ous moun­tain to climb—to see all ap­pro­pri­ations bills voted on, to keep this from be­ing a fruit­less en­deavor it makes sense to prob­ably vote for a budget that at least rep­res­ents Re­pub­lic­an pri­or­it­ies and a Re­pub­lic­an vis­ion.”

Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bill Flores has been among the voices ad­voc­at­ing a lower House budget, and on Tues­day his group re­leased its guidelines for what a spend­ing plan should look like—in­clud­ing that it should re­duce dis­cre­tion­ary spend­ing.

That the po­s­i­tion is now of­fi­cial will make it even harder for lead­ers to peel off enough GOP votes to pass a budget at $1.07 tril­lion. That has some open­ing up the pos­sib­il­ity of passing a budget at a lower num­ber, even if it’s not per­haps as low as the House Free­dom Caucus wants to go.

“We have to pass a budget. And we have to find a num­ber that brings broad con­sensus to our mem­bers,” Re­pub­lic­an Policy Com­mit­tee Chair­man Luke Mess­er said. “To me, the most im­port­ant num­ber is 230-plus mem­bers vot­ing for the budget. I still be­lieve we’ll find a way to get that done.”

What We're Following See More »
Trump to Begin Covering His Own Legal Bills
1 days ago
Steele Says Follow the Money
1 days ago

"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."

Goldstone Ready to Meet with Mueller’s Team
1 days ago

"The British publicist who helped set up the fateful meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016 is ready to meet with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's office, according to several people familiar with the matter. Rob Goldstone has been living in Bangkok, Thailand, but has been communicating with Mueller's office through his lawyer, said a source close to Goldstone."

Kislyak Says Trump Campaign Contacts Too Numerous to List
1 days ago

"Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said on Wednesday that it would take him more than 20 minutes to name all of the Trump officials he's met with or spoken to on the phone. ... Kislyak made the remarks in a sprawling interview with Russia-1, a popular state-owned Russian television channel."

Sabato Moves Alabama to “Lean Democrat”
2 days ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.