The House is weighing a seven-week stopgap spending amid conservative grumbling that it caves to Democrats’ anti-border wall demands.
“My guess is they wouldn’t have brought it to the floor unless they thought they could pass it,” Rep. Bill Flores of Texas said Thursday morning. The measure hadn’t yet been officially scheduled for a vote, however, likely out of concern that the president’s position was still unclear.
Some Republicans held out hope that President Donald Trump, who hasn’t given a definitive signal yet, would veto the temporary measure, which runs through Feb. 8 for nine Cabinet departments, including Homeland Security.
Trump will huddle with some House Republicans at noon about the situation, and his top spokeswoman signaled he is not yet ready to sign a stopgap spending bill needed to avert a partial shutdown.
“The President is having a meeting with Republican House Members at noon today. At this moment, the President does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall. The President is continuing to weigh his options,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
“I think he’s well aware of my position, and I don’t know that you can ignore the fact that we’re strongly encouraging him to veto it,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who was briefly a candidate for Trump’s chief of staff. “I mean 180 or 190 Democrats and just a few Republicans would pass it. Yeah. But I don’t think that there’s a majority of the majority.”
The House Rules Committee hadn’t yet reported a rule for floor debate, amid speculation that there was a reluctance to bring the measure to the floor without confirmation that Trump would sign it. Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Rules member, wouldn’t comment on the holdup. “You’d need to talk to the chairman about that,” he said.
In a somewhat ominous sign, the House was set to take up a “marital law” rule providing the ability to take up a rule for floor debate on the same day it is reported by the committee all the way through Christmas Eve on Dec. 24. It would also allow authority to take up suspension bills through Dec. 23.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after Senate passage of the stopgap late Wednesday, implored senators not to jump on planes immediately, given the possibility that the House could still make changes.
Rep. Chris Collins of New York, a close confidant of Trump’s, told reporters that “I don’t think there’s any doubt” that the measure will pass the House, and also that “there’s no doubt at all” that the president would sign it.
“Clearly [House Speaker] Paul Ryan has been in conversations with the president,” Collins said, adding that leadership in a conference meeting Thursday described the CR as “a fait accompli without saying those words.”
Indeed, Ryan exited this morning’s GOP caucus meeting to take a call from the president. He didn’t return to the meeting for close to 30 minutes. Afterward, Ryan postponed his customary Thursday 10 a.m. press conference.
The stopgap measure would continue the current funding levels, based on enacted fiscal 2018 appropriations, for the agencies covered by seven outstanding fiscal 2019 spending bills. It would also continue several expiring program authorizations through Feb. 8, and two Medicaid programs through March 31, 2019.
The president is scheduled to leave for Christmas vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday. His appetite for closing down large swaths of the government over the holidays seemed to wane in recent days, acknowledging that he won’t get the $5 billion in southern border wall funds he seeks in this round of bargaining because 60 Senate votes do not exist for it.
In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump shifted his sights to next year’s spending talks with the incoming House majority Democrats, who have talked about working with the president on an infrastructure package. “What they are beginning to realize is that I will not sign any of their legislation, including infrastructure, unless it has perfect Border Security,” he wrote. “U.S.A. WINS!”
Rep. Steve King of Iowa, an ardent supporter of the wall, on Thursday morning appeared resigned to the fight being pushed off to next year.
“Well it just looks like the president’s been afflicted with the Christmas spirit,” King said. “He signaled that he’ll find another way to fund the wall if he can’t get his $5 billion dollars now. So that’s the signal.”
King confirmed there was a whip operation on the stopgap on the House floor Wednesday night to count Republican votes. He wouldn’t say how he’d vote on the package: “I want to preserve my leverage.”
King questioned the wisdom of battling it out in a lame-duck session when so many lawmakers are about to depart Congress.
“Well, I am always uneasy about lame-duck sessions,” he said. “But 10 times more so in one when the majority changes hands, and it’s hard to make the case that we should be setting a standard for the long-term future of the country when you’re going to have freshly elected people be seated just in a matter of weeks.”
The House Rules panel late Wednesday heard a last-minute plea from conservatives to attach immigration-related provisions.
While panel Republicans said they were sympathetic to members’ concerns, they also conceded that time was running short to fund government before the current stopgap expires at midnight Friday.
“There are circumstances that we find ourselves under that we have to take into account,” Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, said to Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Scott Perry, who presented a border security amendment just before Rules recessed shortly after midnight.
“This is the last train out of the station, this is our last opportunity,” Perry said.
John T. Bennett contributed to this story.
What Really Happens During a Government Shutdown, Explained