Politico: Conservatives revolt against funding bill as shutdown approaches

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Washington, December 20, 2018 | comments

Conservatives revolt against funding bill as shutdown approaches

A last-ditch push for Trump’s wall could upend leadership plans in the House.

By SARAH FERRIS

 

12/20/2018 07:19 AM EST

House Republican leaders are struggling to rally their own members behind a funding bill that deprives President Donald Trump of a long-sought border wall victory, with no certainty about what he might do next.

Conservatives lashed out late Wednesday at the prospect of a kick-the-can bill that punts border funding issues into February, when they argue presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will stomp down Trump’s last chance for a wall ahead of 2020.

The Senate unanimously cleared the stopgap legislation Wednesday night, a sign of buckling that further inflamed House conservatives who accused their leaders of running away from an immigration fight in their final days.

“Do we actually think we’re going to build a border security wall when Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House?” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of the leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday as he introduced an 11th hour amendment to add $5 billion in wall funding to the bill. “This is our last best chance,” he said.

House GOP leaders have privately predicted that the bill would come to the floor Thursday with broad bipartisan support. But the prospect of a swift, drama-free vote was thrown into question Wednesday evening, with multiple Republican lawmakers suggesting that GOP leaders had a numbers problem.

Facing backlash ahead of the presumed Thursday vote, the House Rules panel decided around 1 a.m. to postpone debate on what should happen with the funding bill — instead allowing the full GOP conference to chew over the issue in a closed-door meeting Thursday.

Attendance could also be an issue for House Republican leaders: on Wednesday, there were 44 Republican no-shows in a single vote. Nearly all are Republicans who either lost their reelection or chose not to run next year.

With the Freedom Caucus nearly uniformly in opposition, GOP leaders can’t afford to lose other votes if they want a majority of Republicans on board.

Scores of Democrats are almost certain to support the bill, so its passage is probably not in jeopardy. But a poor showing among House Republicans would be an embarrassment for House Speaker Paul Ryan in what could be his final vote — and it could embolden Trump to force the government shutdown that he threatened as recently as last week.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), who backs Trump’s wall demands.

Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), along with more than a dozen other conservatives, took the House floor Wednesday night in a series of protest floor speeches seeking more money for the wall.

“My president, we’re going to back you up, if you veto this bill, we’ll be there.” Meadows said on the floor. Hours earlier, he tweeted that a punt into February would be a “Valentine’s Day gift” to Pelosi and her deputies.

The bill does include some money for border fencing: it refills the current budget of $1.3 billion, just shy of the $1.6 billion that the Senate had sought in a funding deal. Trump had initially demanded $5 billion, though he appeared to retreat on that figure — via his advisers — this week.

The lack of new money, however, remains a symbolic issue for GOP lawmakers like Byrne, a defense hawk who typically votes for appropriations bills. He’s also an immigration hardliner, and vowed Wednesday to oppose the bill.

The seven-week bill also includes no new money for disaster relief, despite weeks of hopeful statements by GOP spending leaders to supply aid for states like Florida, Georgia and California.

Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) said a group of lawmakers from the Southeast states would oppose any funding bill that didn’t include at least some disaster aid for farmers hit by coastal storms this fall.

“Absolutely not,” Scott said firmly, when asked if he would support the bill in its current form.

“I think there are a lot of people from the Southeast who recognize that this disaster payment for our area has to happen and has to happen now,” Scott said, calling for a specific policy tweak that would unleash extra money for farmers whose crops were wrecked by storms.

As Republicans floated the possibility that Trump could veto the bill without extra wall funding, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said Congress could still avert a shutdown Friday.

"I’m not privy to any conversations with the president ... but to the extent that they’re listening, a veto of this bill is something that could be sustained," Burgess said, hinting that lawmakers could override Trump's final call.

 

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