Politics

Senate Republicans View White House Rescissions Package as Non-Starter

Senators skeptical of going back on the bipartisan spending deal

Asked Monday about a proposal to rescind omnibus funds, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said “It’s going nowhere.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Republicans on Monday threw cold water on a forthcoming proposal from the White House that will ask Congress to cut previously enacted spending, including from the $1.3 trillion spending bill that President Donald Trump signed last month.

Republican lawmakers are concerned about how moving forward with a “rescissions” package would affect future bipartisan negotiations over spending bills.

If Republicans go back on the promises they made to their Democratic colleagues while negotiating the fiscal 2018 spending law, that could erode trust between the parties and make negotiating the fiscal 2019 spending bills more difficult.

“It’s going nowhere,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said flatly when asked about Senate interest in taking up a rescissions package.

The South Carolina Republican, who is chairman of the State Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, said rolling back nondefense accounts would be ill-advised.

 

“We made a deal, and nondefense spending is below 2010 levels,” Graham said, referring to inflation-adjusted dollars. “Part of this is they want to cut the State Department. I am not going to take diplomatic tools off the table. Once you do that, you are in endless war. I believe diplomacy and foreign assistance is national security in another form.”

GOP Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, who is expected Tuesday to formally be named chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he wants to see details of the proposal before making a final decision.

But Shelby cautioned that Republicans need to hold fast to any promises they’ve made.

“If we agreed to something, I want to keep my word,” Shelby said.

Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Chairwoman Susan Collins said she was “baffled” as to why the Trump administration would put together a rescissions package.

“We need to get on with this year’s appropriations process, not reopen last year’s,” the Maine Republican said.

There is no timeline from the White House about when it plans to send the request to Congress or how much they’ll propose to eliminate from the spending bill, but GOP officials have said next month is a target time frame.

Watch: What to Expect, and Not Expect, From the House After Recess

If the House passed a rescissions bill, there is a strong chance that the Senate would change the package or that it would stall.

Republicans control 51 of the chamber’s 100 seats, and all of them would likely need to be on board in order to pass a rescissions measure. With Democrats and several GOP appropriators opposed, it appears there could be a real numbers problem.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, wouldn’t commit to putting a rescission package on the Senate floor.

“I’m interested in what they’re proposing, and I think it depends on what the package looks like,” Cornyn said of the plan pushed by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

— Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this report.

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