WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump cast doubt on whether he would back a $1.3 trillion spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown Friday, saying he was “considering” a veto over concerns about young “Dreamer” immigrants and border wall money.
Hours before funding for the government expires and with Congress already on recess, Trump said on Twitter that he was weighing a veto “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.”
The tweet was at odds with comments Thursday by Trump’s supporters. Budget director Mick Mulvaney had said the president would sign the bill and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said Trump was supportive.
Earlier Friday morning, the Senate gave final approval of the bill before funding for the government expires at midnight. With Congress already out of town, if Trump does not sign the government would likely shut down.
Trump has been frustrated with the media coverage of the bill, as conservative lawmakers and other critics have railed against it on cable news and in private calls. It was not clear if he was serious about following through with the implied threat. Several advisers inside and outside the White House characterized the message as blowing off steam and said Trump was still likely to sign. The advisers sought anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Still, Trump’s tweet was cheered by the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which voted against the spending bill along with two dozen Republicans in the Senate.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the freedom caucus, said in a tweet that the group would “fully support” a veto, adding that Congress should pass a short-term budget resolution while Trump and congressional leaders “negotiate a better deal for the forgotten men and women of America.”
The freedom caucus had urged Trump to veto the spending bill, saying it does not include enough money for the border wall, leaves intact President Barack Obama’s health care law and funds Planned Parenthood.
The Senate passage of the bill averted a third federal shutdown this year, an outcome both parties wanted to avoid. But the budget caps-busting deal drew serious conservative opposition. It also failed to resolve the stalemate over shielding young Dreamer immigrants from deportation after Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
While Trump has repeatedly criticized Democrats over DACA, he canceled the program last fall, ending the issuance of new DACA permits. A judge has forced the administration to continue issuing renewals.
The House easily approved the spending package Thursday, 256-167, a bipartisan tally that underscored the popularity of the compromise, which funds the government through September. It beefs up military and domestic programs, delivering federal funds to every corner of the country.
But action stalled in the Senate, as conservatives ran the clock in protest. Once the opponents relented, the Senate began voting, clearing the package by a 65-32 vote.
“Shame, shame. A pox on both Houses – and parties,” tweeted Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who spent the afternoon tweeting details found in the 2,200-page bill that was released the night before. “No one has read it. Congress is broken.”
The omnibus spending bill was supposed to be an antidote to the stopgap measures Congress has been forced to pass – five in this fiscal year alone – to keep government temporarily running amid partisan fiscal disputes.
White House legislative director Marc Short framed it as a compromise. “I can’t sit here and tell you and your viewers that we love everything in the bill,” he said on Fox. “But we think that we got many of our priorities funded.”
The spending package includes $1.6 billion for Trump’s long-promised border wall with Mexico. The money was far less than the $25 billion Trump had made a last-ditch effort to secure.
But the overall result has been unimaginable to many Republicans after campaigning on spending restraints and balanced budgets. Along with the recent GOP tax cuts law, the bill that stood a foot tall at some lawmakers’ desks ushers in the return of $1 trillion deficits.
Trying to smooth over differences, Republican leaders focused on military increases that were once core to the party’s brand as guardians of national security.
But even that remained a hard sell – a sign of the entrenched GOP divisions that have made the leadership’s job controlling the majority difficult. They will likely repeat in the next budget battle in the fall.
Democrats faced their own divisions, particularly after failing to resolve the stalemate over shielding young Dreamer immigrants from deportation.
Also missing from the package was a renewal of federal insurance subsidies to curb premium costs on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Trump ended some of those payments as part of his effort to scuttle Obama’s health care law, but Republicans have joined Democrats in trying to revive them.
Bipartisan efforts to restore the subsidies, and provide additional help for insurance carriers, foundered over disagreements on how tight abortion restrictions should be on using the money for private insurance plans. Senate Republicans made a last-ditch effort to tuck the insurance provisions into the bill, but Democrats refused to yield on abortion restrictions.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-C.T. released the following statement on Friday after the spending bill was approved by Congress.
This comprehensive spending bill is the result of real bipartisan compromise, and serves as a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together. Connecticut will benefit from significant investments in defense spending, bolstering our transportation network, and real resources to fight the opioid crisis. This bill reflects the priorities of job creators who are driving economic growth across our state, including defense manufacturers and small business owners alike. This legislation isn’t perfect, but it represents a significant investment in businesses and job growth across our state.”
Senator Chris Murphy, D-C.T. also released a statement on Friday.
This bill has lots of wins for our state. It will send more money back to the Connecticut manufacturers who make submarines, helicopters, and engines. It includes new support for Long Island Sound, and for aquaculture research at the Milford Lab and UConn’s Sea Grant program,” said Murphy. “It was my priority on the Appropriations Committee this year to fund programs that help us protect and create as many jobs as possible in Connecticut, and this bill will do that in a big way. This bill will fund new manufacturing jobs, new health care jobs, and new construction jobs. It’s a compromise of course, and there are pieces of the bill I don’t like, but on balance this budget is really good news for Connecticut.”