Republicans Claim Their Own Victories in Omnibus Talks

GOP aides point to increases in defense spending, cuts for EPA, UN

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan pointed to some significant Republican wins in the omnibus spending bill while Democrats were taking a victory lap. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan pointed to some significant Republican wins in the omnibus spending bill while Democrats were taking a victory lap. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted May 2, 2017 at 9:48am

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is claiming he had no real losses in omnibus negotiations, but House Republican leadership would beg to differ.

For instance, the House GOP lawsuit against cost sharing reduction payments to insurance companies as part of the 2010 health care law is still alive. Democrats had wanted funding language in the spending bill, but they settled for an administrative commitment.

That means the litigation itself against the payments can continue.

Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., touted that Democrats, “were able to knock out 160 poison pill riders,” though some  provisions favored by the majority GOP certainly did get through.

One of those is the Kemp-Kasten rider, a longstanding provision which is being interpreted under President Donald Trump as allowing funding to be moved away from the United Nations Population Fund.

Republican aides have also stressed the bipartisan nature of much of the new domestic spending that came in addition to what OMB Director Mick Mulvaney described as $21 billion in new emergency spending for the Pentagon.

Republicans say this amounts to more of a victory because it effectively breaks the longstanding position of Democrats that there should be equal defense and non-defense additions, although senior Democratic aides dispute the idea that overseas contingency funding counts in those cases.

That list included additional disaster relief and emergency transportation and infrastructure spending. There was also the matter of health care needs in Puerto Rico, which was a priority of numerous Democrats, including perhaps particularly House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

The funding Democrats wanted to help address Medicaid in Puerto Rico was repurposed money and not new spending, a senior Republican aide said.

Republicans claimed victories on increases in school choice funding that Democrats generally oppose. There’s also the roughly $1.5 billion for border security assistance.

A senior House Republican aide pointed to a 50-percent increase in abstinence education funding as something Democrats certainly did not want, and the same can be said for the slashes to funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.

A fact sheet from the office of Speaker Paul D. Ryan also highlighted efforts to limit the power of the Internal Revenue Service, particularly in determinations about advocacy groups.

In addition, as noted Monday, there may be much less of a need for policy riders and language seeking to advance Republican priorities like defunding Planned Parenthood with a president and a Health and Human Services secretary like Tom Price who can prioritize family planning funding differently than did the Obama administration.

The fiscal 2017 omnibus bill, which will fund the government through the end of September, needs to pass the House and Senate before the end of the week to avoid a shutdown scenario. It is expected to win broad support.

— John T. Bennett contributed to this report.