Fresh from a two-week Easter break, Congress hits the ground running next week — its legislative plate more than full, and its back against the wall with the government funding clock ticking down and the resurrection of a tuned-up ObamaCare replacement bill on its agenda.
Asked late Friday if he can get it all done, an optimistic President Trump told a reporter, “We’ll see what happens. No particular rush, but we’ll see what happens. A lot of good things are happening. “
Those upbeat remarks — a week before the federal government runs out of money — stand in stark contrast to growing fears in some quarters of another government shutdown.
A key House source told Fox News that negotiations on a new spending bill are, “ongoing and progressing” and that “a government shutdown is not on the table.”
Trump’s Budget Director Mick Mulvaney agrees, but on Thursday he threw a wrench in the works. He told the Associated Press that Democratic negotiators need to agree to fund some of the president’s top priorities, including a down payment on a border wall and hiring of additional immigration agents.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Communications Director, Matt House, fired back late Friday in an emailed statement: “If the administration would drop their 11th-hour demand for a wall that Democrats, and a good number of Republicans oppose, Congressional leaders could quickly reach a deal.”
Asked Friday morning, after Mulvaney’s remarks, whether the wall funding is a budget deal breaker, Counselor to the President Kelly Ann Conway played it safe. “I’ll let the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] director and the president and others address that. We’re confident that the government will not be shut down next week.”
Conway’s circumspection may also stem from knowing Democrats are making their own budget demands, further risking a government shut-down.
“You have Democrats saying they want ObamaCare payments into this funding bill so Republicans are not going to like that,” says Bob Cusack, managing editor of The Hill. “So there is certainly some brinksmanship going on and this is going to take some twists and turns but, at the end of the day, I think they’ll get a deal done,” he says.
“We boiled this thing down to something we want very badly and the democrats really don’t want,” Mulvaney said on Bloomberg TV. “We’d offer them $1 of CSR payments for $1 of wall payments. Right now that’s the offer that we’ve given to our Democratic colleagues.”
Adding another wrinkle to budget talks, the president wants the House to roll out the new American Health Care Act next week. It’s a tuned-up version of the ObamaCare replacement that was pulled from the floor in late March, when it became clear Republicans didn’t have enough votes.
But voting on two complex pieces of legislation in a single week is extremely difficult. As an insurance policy against a government shutdown, Republicans will have a short-term continuing resolution at the ready, should it be needed.