Politics

House Conservatives on Omnibus: 'It Stinks'

Freedom Caucus complicates passage, GOP message on spending package

Speaker Paul D. Ryan is touting a fiscal 2017 spending package as a win for Republicans, going against his conservative colleagues and President Donald Trump, while Democrats say the package is a victory for them as well.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday touted what he called "conservative wins" Tuesday in an omnibus package that would fund the government until September, despite members of his own GOP conference who beg to differ.

Several members of the House Freedom Caucus say they will vote against the spending package because it did not include enough of President Donald Trump's priorities even after members of the president’s own team, including his budget director, touted their own victories.

[Republicans Claim Their Own Victories in Omnibus Talks]

Rep. Dave Brat took a long pause when asked what he thought about White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying on Monday he had “every expectation” Trump would sign the funding package.

“That’s surprising,” the Virginia Republican said. “But more importantly is his use of leverage going forward to get that agenda through, right? that’s what he ran on, that’s what the base wants out of us.”

[After Dems Celebrate, Mulvaney Calls Spending Bill a Win for Trump]

Brat, a member of the Freedom Caucus, cited a list of concerns with the spending deal that included no funding for a border wall that Trump promised at virtually every turn on the campaign trail.

“I’m thinking there’s going to be a lot of folks with huge reservations to put it mildly,” Brat said.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said he expected the spending package would pass with mostly Democratic votes and absent conservative support.

He said a “no” vote by conservatives would still be a show of support for the president, despite the administration citing its own wins.

“I don’t know that it makes a big political statement one way or another,” Meadows said.

[Trump Wants September Shutdown to Kill Legislative Filibuster]

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Monday called the omnibus a “really solid deal” citing a $15 billion increase in defense spending, which he disputed was actually $21 billion, as the top accomplishment.

The former GOP House member and Freedom Caucus member expressed his support for the bipartisan effort to fund the government until the end of the fiscal year.

“He’s got a different boss now,” Meadows said in response to Mulvaney’s comments. “It used to be the people of South Carolina, now it’s the president of the United States. I certainly understand his reasoning even though I may not totally agree with it.”

Rep. Tom Cole, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said GOP members should think twice about voting down a measure supported by a White House of their own political affiliation.

“This is voting against funding a Republican administration and the president has asked us to vote for it,” Cole said. “I would hope that carries some weight with every Republican.”

Mulvaney was reaching out to the press again on a hastily arranged conference call Tuesday morning, shortly after Trump tweeted that Republicans should force a "good 'shutdown'” of the government in order to do away with the filibuster in the Senate so more of his priorities could be passed with only GOP support.

“I think that’s a defensible position,” Mulvaney said. He added it was “one we’ll deal with in September.”

He added that, for now, he and his team are focused on the current omnibus spending measure due for floor votes later this week.

"We’ve got a lot of things to do between now and September,” Mulvaney said. “But the truth of the matter, though, is that we averted a government shutdown in a way that allows the president to fund his priorities, and I think that’s the story now, not what might happen in September.”

Regardless of what waits later this year, the business at hand the House faces this week is still passing the omnibus. For that, Ryan and his team shouldn’t count on too many conservatives, at least according to its most prominent members.

“We’re just doing what we told the voters we were going to do, nothing changes,” Rep. Jim Jordan said about his lack of support of the 2017 omnibus package.

The Ohio Republican did not agree that voting against the spending package would lessen leverage for the Freedom Caucus, which he used to chair, given it’s a bill Trump must sign.

Jordan’s feelings on the bill were clear: with a thumbs down, he said “it stinks.”

- John T. Bennett and Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this report.Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriter

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