Congress Passes Spending Bill, But Trump Threatens Veto

Congress passed a funding bill to avert a shutdown with time to spare early this morning, but now the President is threatening a veto.

As expected, the House and Senate approved a bill to fund the government through the end of the Fiscal Year with hours to spare before another government shutdown, but it didn’t happen without some cajoling on the part of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring along two Republican Senators who were holding up consideration of the bill:

First there were Rand Paul’s objections. Then Jim Risch’s. But finally at 12:39 a.m. on Friday, the Senate passed a bill funding the government through September and went home after a chaotic 12 hours of drama.

The chamber voted 65-32 to pass the $1.3 trillion spending package and send it to President Donald Trump. But it was a tricky road to avoid a government shutdown, requiring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to privately telephone Paul and let him vent about the Senate rules, then satisfy Risch’s objections to a wilderness area being named after a dead Idaho governor.

“This is ridiculous. This is juvenile,” fumed Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who asked McConnell for an explanation of why the chamber was in at midnight. “What has occurred over the last 11 hours that keeps us here voting on a bill that we all know is going to pass?”

McConnell didn’t go into detail but acknowledged the difficult path he took to getting the spending bill across the finish line.

“My principal responsibility is begging, pleading and cajoling. I have been in continuous discussions, shall I say, with several of our members who were legitimately unhappy,” McConnell said.

That’s putting it mildly.

Paul kept everyone in suspense that he might shut the government down again — but he backed off late Thursday night after a private conversation with McConnell. The junior GOP senator from Kentucky spent the day refusing to rule out forcing another brief government shutdown in opposition to a return to “Obama spending and trillion-dollar deficits.”

But after a call with McConnell around 10 p.m., Paul said he would let the bill go through, a show of pragmatism that was not on display last month when Paul caused an hours-long lapse in government funding.

“It’s never really been about how long we stay here. But it is to a certain extent, when you lose, trying to draw attention to your cause,” Paul told reporters as the clock neared midnight. “We look for victories any way we can, knowing that we don’t have the votes to win.”

Paul’s objections to the bill at least have the advantage of being based on principles, and he is correct to a large degree in his objections to a budget process that essentially allows these 2,200 page monstrosities to be negotiated and drafted in private, with Senators and Members of Congress given essentially no time to even attempt to find out what’s in the bill while the process bars them from even presenting amendments for consideration. This, of course, is not how the budget process is supposed to work, but it has sadly become standard operating procedure in Washington over the past decade or more. Ideally, of course, the budget should be passed based on “regular order,” which would mean individual spending bills passed for each segment of government rather than one huge bill passed at the last possible minute. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in and its unlikely to change anytime soon,

If Paul’s objections were principled, those of Idaho Senator Jim Risch were just utterly petty and ridiculous. Rather than being based on some principled objection to the process, or even to any of the individual pieces of the overall spending package, Risch was objecting to the bill because of a decades-old political feud:

For several hours Thursday night, a senator’s disdain for a deceased political rival threatened to spark a government shutdown.

According to two congressional aides familiar with the dispute, Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) demanded that a provision renaming the White Clouds Wilderness in central Idaho after former four-term governor Cecil D. Andrus, who died last year, be removed from a fast-moving omnibus appropriations bill.

The request generated all sorts complications as Senate leaders sought to clear the 2,232-page $1.3 trillion spending bill ahead of a Friday-night government shutdown deadline. Among them: Changing the bill would require a House vote as well — many hours after the House passed the bill and members left Washington for a two-week recess.

Aides to Risch did not respond to a message seeking comment on his objections. Risch would not comment outside the Senate chamber early Friday morning: “What part of ‘No’ don’t you understand?” he said. “Do I have a problem with my English? I don’t have any comment.”

The renaming provision passed the House in February in a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who is chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water and thus in prime position to insert pet provisions into the must-pass omnibus bill. As governor, Andrus fought to prevent the opening of an open-pit molybdenum mine in the White Cloud Mountains and served as interior secretary under President Jimmy Carter.

It is unclear why Risch was not informed or did not know about the renaming until Thursday, when it was effectively too late to change the bill. Aides to Simpson did not return a request for comment. Typically provisions included in appropriations bills are heavily vetted by both parties as they move through Congress. But this bill’s progress was especially rapid: It was filed at 8 p.m. Thursday and passed by the House 17 hours later.

The complete dimensions of the animus between Risch and Andrus could not be fully ascertained early Friday morning. But a 2008 story in the Spokane Spokesman-Review recounted that the two men clashed over education funding in the 1980s.

“Risch is one of the most partisan people I’ve ever had to deal with,” Andrus is quoted as saying. “During his time in legislative leadership, cooperation across the aisle and with the governor’s office reached a new low.”

Simpson held a fonder view of the late governor: “Governor Andrus meant so much, to so many in Idaho,” he said in a Feb. 14 statement marking House passage of the renaming. “It is only fitting that this iconic land in Idaho is forever tied to the man who dedicated his public service to protecting it.”

As Risch pressed for the removal of the renaming, Senate GOP leaders increased pressure to drop his objection. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called up a bill to undo the provision, even though House passage would also be necessary to make the change. Then McConnell called all senators to the chamber’s floor in an apparent attempt to clear the roadblock. As Risch sat in his desk, multiple senators surrounded him trying to find a way around the objection.

Risch later followed McConnell, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) into Cornyn’s office for a 25-minute meeting. Shortly before midnight, Risch left and walked onto the Senate floor without saying a word to reporters. Cornyn later said that no change would be made to remove the renaming language.

After all of that, it looked as though it was smooth sailing and a government shutdown would be averted. Then President Trump took to Twitter threatening a veto:

President Trump suggested on Friday that he could veto a massive $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, raising the prospect of a government shutdown.

In a tweet, Trump cited the bill’s lack of funding for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the fact that it does not extend protections for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded,” Trump tweeted.

Here’s Trump’s tweet:

This is apparently the first sign that the President had any objections at all to the bill, and it certainly doesn’t seem like something that either Republicans or Democrats were anticipating. As things stand, it’s quite simply impossible for Congress to come up with a DACA fix before the close of business today, which is when the current Continuing Resolution would run out. As for the border wall, the funding provided is far from what Trump wants but it was more than Democrats were initially willing to accept so, in that sense, it was a win for Republicans. Complicating all of this is the fact that Congress is scheduled to leave town today for a two week Easter holiday break. If Trump really does follow through on his veto threat, then all of that could go out the window as leadership on both sides of the Capitol struggles to come up with something that the President will accept that can still pass both chambers of Congress.

This is life under the Chaos Presidency, my friends.

Update: After a long, rambling, incoherent statement this afternoon, Trump has signed the spending bill after all:

President Donald Trump signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill Friday, averting a government shutdown and ending a panic that briefly gripped official Washington.

A few hours after stunning even his closest advisers by tweeting that he was “considering a VETO” of the bill, he held a news conference to say he would begrudgingly support it “as a matter of national security.”

“There are a lot of things that I’m unhappy about in this bill,” he said. “There are a lot of things that we shouldn’t have had in this bill.”

Trump said he swallowed his objections because of its funding boost for national defense and the military. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly were key in convincing Trump not to veto the legislation, according to a source familiar with conversations between congressional leaders and the president.

“I will never sign another bill like this again,” he said, calling the 2,200 page plan passed by Congress soon after it was unveiled a “ridiculous situation,” adding, “I’m not going to do it again.”

Trump’s earlier veto threat — citing the spending bill’s lack of full funding for his border wall and attention to undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers — came as many lawmakers who would have to override his rejection or pass a stopgap funding measure were already on their way out of Washington for a two-week recess.

Government funding lapsed at midnight Friday, which would have marked the third shutdown of the year.

The president’s top aides said Thursday he would sign the bill, but his threat was a reminder that only Trump truly knows what the White House is doing at any time.

Trump’s tweet caught many in the West Wing and on Capitol Hill by surprise, sending them scrambling to determine how serious he was about vetoing the bill. Illustrating the degree to which Trump had upended his own staff once again, one West Wing official said on Friday morning that the likelihood of a shutdown was “extremely high.”

Before Trump’s afternoon announcement, there was hope in the White House that the defense community, including Mattis — who was slated to meet with Trump on Friday — could convince him that whatever stopgap spending agreement resulted from a shutdown threat would not deliver the high level of defense spending provided by the bill he threatened to nix. Sources said White House legislative affairs liaison Marc Short went to speak to the president to try to convince him of the merits of the deal.

“This is just crazy,” one White House official said.

Crazy? Yes, but it’s what passes for normal in Donald Trump’s America.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    I think we have a new entry in the “This Is How We Got Trump” contest. Confronted with a complete and sustained breakdown in the normal deliberative process, Mataconis simply shrugs his shoulders. “Oh well. Things are the way they are.”

    Things are the way we make them. Trump absolutely should veto this budget deal, though he probably won’t, because this should be an unacceptable way of handling our affairs. The only way to stop the unacceptable is to stop accepting it.

    When Rand Paul and Donald Trump are right, we really need to focus on how everyone else ended up so wrong.

    Mike

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Paul’s objections to the bill at least have the advantage of being based on principles

    I guess you could call always being a drama queen a principle. At least he’s consistent.

    And Trump is going to veto the bill because it doesn’t reinstate DACA? The DACA program Trump killed? As you say, chaos.

    10
  3. Kylopod says:

    The Breitbart commenters are currently in freakout mode. The following is the top (most upvoted) comment under the main article about the spending bill:

    “America’s greatest enemy isn’t the Chinese, Russia or even North Korea. It’s out of control spending that will be the end of us.”

    And this one I found really precious:

    “It’s beginning to dawn on me that Trump tricked us all. Did he just over promise and say what we wanted to hear?”

    What’s most hilarious is that most of the commenters seem oblivious to the irony that they’re complaining about the bill’s fiscal profligacy, while at the same time praising Trump for threatening to veto the bill not because it spends too much, but because it doesn’t contain funding for DACA or the wall.

    14
  4. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    I noticed a huge number of commenters over there who are suddenly realizing that they got conned by a con man.

    Mick Mulvaney said yesterday that Trump would sign the bill because it funded all Trump’s priorities. So…what was said on Fox and Friends this morning that would change his mind?

    7
  5. @MBunge:

    What else is there to do at this point? The November midterms could shake things up on Capitol Hill, but even that is just going to lead to two years of gridlock at best. Not that there’s anything wrong with gridlock when someone like Trump is President, mind you.

    10
  6. CSK says:

    @CSK:

    Ha! I was right about Fox and Friends being the cause of Trump’s veto threat. Pete Hegseth called the bill “a swamp bill.”

    10
  7. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Am I the only one that finds it hilarious that Donny Dennison is going to shut down the Government because he is not getting full tax-payer funding for the pointless wall that he promised Mexico was going to pay for?
    Oh…and the fact that the entire DACA kerfuffle is HIS DOING!!!

    Meantime…my entire weekend is built around Stormy Daniels and 60 Minutes on Sunday night.

    4
  8. Kylopod says:

    @CSK:

    I noticed a huge number of commenters over there who are suddenly realizing that they got conned by a con man.

    But the thing about that is, it’s far from clear what specific promise they think he’s breaking. Out of all the Republican candidates in 2016, Trump wasn’t exactly the one most focused on budget issues. He pledged not to touch Medicare or Social Security. In his big speech on the economy, while he did attack Obama on the size of the national debt, the entire speech didn’t contain even one actual proposal for reduction in spending other than some noise about cutting regulations, hardly a massive contributor to the deficit. The rest of the speech talked about cutting taxes, simplifying the tax code, rebuilding infrastructure, and renegotiating NAFTA, and then made the statement “If our plan exceeds the 3.5% ten-year growth average, then our jobs proposal will actually reduce the deficit.” In other words, pure supply-side hokum.

    Trump wasn’t the candidate talking about tightening the government’s belt, he was the candidate talking about giving everyone free ponies–which is, in fact, exactly what con artists do. I can understand the Breitbart crowd freaking out when they realize there’s going to be no wall–at least that’s something relatively concrete that Trump unquestionably made a central part of his campaign. What I don’t understand is how they can think he’s somehow going back on a promise by being a big spender. This is what finally breaks the spell?

    6
  9. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    I think they saw in Trump whatever they wanted to see at the time.

    7
  10. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    I think we have a new entry in the “This Is How We Got Trump” contest. Confronted with a complete and sustained breakdown in the normal deliberative process, Mataconis simply shrugs his shoulders. “Oh well. Things are the way they are.”

    Look, we know, to a degree, ‘both sides do it,’ but Republicans are at a new levels of recidivism and cynicism when it comes to our budget. If conservatives were in denial over it before, it’s hard to maintain that right now.

    Republicans are to good governance and fiscal responsibility as Roy Moore is to Mall Safety

    13
  11. MarkedMan says:

    Think about this. Trump waited until after his Director of OMB said “Trump will sign this”, after the House approved, after the Senate approved, after the congress critters got on airplanes and headed back to their district. And then he decided it was time to get involved. Mulvaney should resign. Who will take him seriously in the future?

    7
  12. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Mulvaney should know by now that Trump takes his direction from Fox and Friends. I believe that Trump told Mulvaney he’d sign the bill, and sent Mulvaney out to state that publicly. But…Pete Hegseth demurred. Mulvaney neglected to factor that into the equation.

    6
  13. JohnMcC says:

    @MarkedMan: “Who will take (Mulvaney) seriously in the future?” Well, the difference between the future believers and the past believers is those who realize the con and no longer believe versus new recruits to the cult. Our President’s poll numbers while low compared to other administrations are pretty darn good for him; Reuters/Ipsos has him at 44% job approval. So actually you asked a serious question and the answer seems to be, ‘lots of people’.

    We are so screwed. Is the fire insurance on the Reichstag paid up?

    1
  14. Todd says:

    As things stand, it’s quite simply impossible for Congress to come up with a DACA fix before the close of business today,

    Oh give us a break Doug. This veto threat has absolutely nothing to do with a DACA fix.

    Donald Trump watched Fox & Friends this morning and saw how much conservatives hate this bill because it spends more than they want and doesn’t include the harsh immigration crackdown measures they favored.

    If he follows through with the veto threat, this will not be a quick weekend shutdown … because there’s no way to actually pass the type of bill that conservatives want.

    Personally, a longish shutdown just means I get a extra days at home with my kids.

    But man, what a reckless way to run a country.

    7
  15. Todd says:

    @JohnMcC:

    We are so screwed. Is the fire insurance on the Reichstag paid up?

    Fox News is (almost) literally running the country. :-/

    5
  16. Blue Galangal says:

    @Todd: That’s exactly what happened. Apparently he tweeted 17minutes after the segment aired trashing the budget. After he tweeted the day before (and I’m stepping back for a moment to recognize how far it is we’ve fallen that we are talking about tweets and not press conferences or statements from the White House…) that he supported it and it was a huge win, and after the day before the day before Ryan had to hurry over there and kiss his ring, with McConnell on speakerphone, to try to ensure that… he wouldn’t do exactly what he just did after F&F aired this morning.

    This is not governance. From any side of the coin or any side of the aisle. It’s simply not. This is plugging holes in the dike and the GOP is running out of thumbs.

    6
  17. Todd says:

    @Blue Galangal: Part of me would like to think that this spectacle will finally be what brings some Republicans to their senses. But then I just laugh to myself and say who am I kidding. At this point, I’m not even confident that Democrats will win back congress in the mid-terms. The biggest problems isn’t that President Trump is some sort of loose cannon. It’s that he’s doing exactly what his most fervent supporters want him to do, and what they have convinced another 20% or so of the country that he should do.

    This (type of reckless governance) is the result of conservatives “winning” the war against the “liberal” media.

    6
  18. Todd says:

    I know too many otherwise good, intelligent people who scoff that I am “brainwashed” because I have a subscription to the Washington Post, but then turn around and gleefully share “news” on Facebook from pages with names like “Conservative Treehouse”.

    … and these are the people who are influencing President Trump to do things like threaten to veto a bipartisan spending bill, or cancel the Iran nuclear agreement, or launch a preemptive military strike against North Korea, etc, etc, etc.

    Yep, we’re pretty much screwed.

    9
  19. CSK says:

    @Todd:

    The Trumpkins consider The Conservative Treehouse, The Gateway Pundit, Infowars, Breitbart, The American Thinker, and Zerohedge to be the only reliable sources of information.

    3
  20. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Biggest news of the day…no more hookers on Craigslist.
    https://www.craigslist.org/about/FOSTA

  21. Just 'nutha... says:

    @Kylopod: I’m not even sure that they’re praising Trump about DACA, but rather that he criticized Democrats about the issue. I don’t see Trump’s fanbois wanting DACAs–they want deportations–but will accept Trump beating up Dems over the issue.

    2
  22. Kathy says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    Time for a Congressional Fox and Friends Liaison Office?

    4
  23. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Dennison is going to give the second news conference of his Presidency @ 1:00.
    I hope the press steps up and asks some hard questions.

    1
  24. CSK says:

    The latest scuttlebutt from WH sources is that Trump will sign the bill. He’s stalling to add drama to the occasion.

    Also, according to Politico (I think), Mattis called him at 9:47 a.m. to tell him he had to sign it.

    Do we have a better example of how easy it is to jerk Trump around?

    6
  25. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Second biggest news after hookers being taken off Craigslist…
    Guccifer 2.0 has been identified as a Russian Intelligence Officer…a member of the GRU. This makes a direct link between Dennison’s campaign and the Russian Government. Roger Stone communicated often with Guccifer 2.0 and has openly admitted that.
    Now the link may have been an unwitting one…but it is a link nonetheless. As I have said before, what’s worse? That Dennison colluded with the Russians? Or that the Russians simply played him and he was just a dupe?

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/exclusive-lone-dnc-hacker-guccifer-20-slipped-up-and-revealed-he-was-a-russian-intelligence-officer?ref=home

    2
  26. Darryl,

    Appparently it’s just a statement not a full on press conference

    3
  27. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Well that certainly makes more sense.

    1
  28. Kylopod says:

    @Just ‘nutha…:

    I’m not even sure that they’re praising Trump about DACA, but rather that he criticized Democrats about the issue. I don’t see Trump’s fanbois wanting DACAs–they want deportations–but will accept Trump beating up Dems over the issue.

    I agree. But some of the commenters did express some openness to the idea of a DACA/border wall deal. What was striking was that none of the comments I read (though mind you there were thousands that I didn’t possibly have the time or patience to pick through) seemed bothered by the fact that Trump’s only complaint about the bill was that it contained too little spending.

    The level of cognitive dissonance on this issue is very noticeable. Not only are most of these righties complete economic illiterates, they seem not to even think of border-wall funding as falling into the category of “government spending” (though none of them mentioned Mexico paying for it). I get the sense that they truly agree with the logic of that 2016 Trump speech that once you promote policies that “bring the jobs back,” it will give enough of a boost to the economy that it won’t cost the government a nickel. Only when the government spends on things they don’t like is it moving us toward the fiscal apocalypse.

    2
  29. CSK says:

    Well, he signed it. He also said he’d ever sign another like it again.

    I’m sure of that, Fatso. I’m sure of that.

    4
  30. Mister Bluster says:

    Bunge! JKB! TinyMind0.000000000000000001! Johnny Telephone!

    Where’s the Wall?

    Remember When Trump Said Mexico Would Pay For His Border Wall? Twitter Does.

    2
  31. As I note in an update, Trump has signed the bill after a long, rambling, incoherent statement to the press.

    Of course he did, to do otherwise would have interrupted his tee-time tomorrow morning at Mar-A-Lago.

    4
  32. @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    On another note, it has been 402 days since Trump last held a full press press conference.

    3
  33. Kylopod says:

    Here’s a question for discussion: How representative is that mob of Breitbart commenters who claimed if Trump signs this then he deserves to lose Congress and reelection?

    I go for “not very representative.” They’ll find a way to rationalize it. At least, most of them will. My suspicion as I read these comments was that they were developing a preemptive rationalization for the upcoming (presumed) midterm losses. It’ll be because Trump wasn’t Trumpian enough. Conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed. Same old, same old.

    In the abstract you could roughly divide Trump’s core supporters into two categories: the cultists and the purists. I think the vast majority of them fall into the first category. But the second includes some prominent pundits–Ann Coulter is a prime example. Still, even she has a history of caving when it comes to this sort of thing. In 2008 she claimed that if John McCain won the GOP nomination, she would endorse and campaign for Hillary Clinton (whom she presumed would be the Dem nominee). Needless to say, she never followed through on this threat, for either Hillary or Obama. It was “I’m going to hold my breath till I turn blue!”–which I suspect is also the case for a lot of the whining Breitbart commenters.

    You would think the racist “alt right” (and Coulter was “alt right” before the “alt right”) would lean more toward the purist end; at least you’d think they’d get a little impatient once they realized Trump wasn’t doing much to keep the brown person down. Then again, a lot of these folks from the start seemed to like Trump’s attitude more than his policies, and on those grounds they’re unlikely to abandon him.

    1
  34. lounsbury says:

    If one had written a TV show following this script, it would have been considered idiotic and unrealistic…

    3
  35. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    I just checked over at Lucianne.com, where some of Trump’s more rabid drooling fans hang out, and about 60% of them are screaming that he’s stabbed the base in the back, and the other 40% are ardently defending the poor helpless fellow as having been boxed into a corner by the supremely evil Ryan, McConnell, Pelosi, and Schumer. Trump had to sign the bill, you see, or our military would have been left penniless.

    6
  36. Tyrell says:

    $1.3 trillion? Are you kidding? The American people should veto this bill on principle. I remember a time when the word “trillion” was mentioned only in describing the numbers of stars.

  37. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Trump had to sign the bill, you see, or our military would have been left penniless.

    I like that. The world’s greatest negotiator had to sign the bill, because he was boxed in by a bunch of political hacks.

    6
  38. CSK says:

    @Kathy:

    I know! Love it. The tough guy who makes the best deals, evah, couldn’t punch his way out of a wet paper bag.

    5
  39. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    I can’t wait for “his” next book “The Art of Getting Played.”

    2
  40. rachel says:

    @Kathy: Who can he get to ghost-write that one for him? Everybody knows he’s a deadbeat.