President Trump wants to roll back spending in a massive omnibus bill he signed into law. Republicans who helped craft the legislation, however, are furious.
In his first public comments on the Trump plan, House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said, “My attitude is, your word is your bond.”
Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) is one of more than a half-dozen appropriators who have voiced skepticism about the Trump administration’s proposal to cancel billions in spending.
Nearly all said claimed that they feared it would erode the GOP’s bargaining power in future budget talks. Their objections represented another low point in an often-tense relationship between the cost-cutting White House and GOP members of Congress who write spending bills.
On Wednesday, the skeptics included newly appointed Senate Appropriations chief, Richard Shelby, who met with Trump.
Just before his one-on-one meeting with Trump, Shelby told POLITICO, “We need to look at what we agreed on with the other side and keep our word, keep our agreements.”
He went on to say, “Rescissions has never been a big thing over here.”
The White House is seeking to essentially take a scalpel to last month’s $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, and scratch out any funding that Trump doesn’t personally back.
Budget experts have said a rescissions package of that scale would likely be unprecedented.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a longtime appropriator, told reporters, “I think the whole rescission effort is unrealistic and dangerous. It’s hard enough to make a bargain around here. But you can’t break your word when you do. … You’d never have another deal ever.”
Multiple lawmakers have said they don’t believe House GOP leaders are taking the idea seriously. They think it’s being pushed by Trump’s belt-tightening budget director, Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Most are doubtful that the cutbacks could even land a floor vote.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told reporters, “It seems like this is just an exercise in appeasing the president and the Republican ‘no’ votes on the omnibus. We could have made the original budget framework smaller. I would have been fine with that.”
Debt cautioned that going back on the agreement now, months later would have a “chilling effect” on future deals.
Republicans, particularly in the House, have little desire to revisit the unpopular spending deal. The package included huge boosts to domestic funding, which GOP leaders worked hard to sell to their own members in the name of securing more Pentagon funding.
Ultimately, 90 House Republicans backed the spending bill.
Trump further infuriated GOP members after he threatened to veto the bill and accused GOP leaders of choosing to “waste money” in the bill.
Those same Republican leaders have sharply disputed Trump’s claim that there was no close scrutiny of spending. In defense of the bill, Frelinghuysen said, “When you put together a $1.3 trillion bill, you look into all these accounts.”
Cole said, “You don’t throw your friends under the bus who did exactly what you wanted them to do.” He went on to call it a “hare-brained scheme.”
Just one appropriator out of nine polled by POLITICO this week expressed interest in a rescissions package.
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), the overseer of Agriculture spending, said he was “absolutely” open to the idea.
He went on, “We’re all just getting back, we gotta sit around the table and talk about it, but I don’t dismiss the idea at all.”
No lawmakers have seen any details out of the White House or GOP leadership about which programs would be cut.
The Trump administration would have until mid-June to submit its request. It would then be up to the House Appropriations Committee to turn the package into legislative language.
That work would need to be done at the same time the Appropriations panels are knee-deep in drafting bills for fiscal 2019, which begins Sept. 30.
And with an already abbreviated House calendar this year, lawmakers say there’s hardly any time or interest to jump back into the previous fiscal year.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) said, “We’ll see how that comes together. I’m not quite sure how that’s going to happen, but we’ll see if it does.”
Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have accused the GOP of “buyer’s remorse” after the most recent spending deal.
Democrats are already cautioning that Republican efforts to walk back this year’s spending deal would be seen as an attempt to void the entire two-year budget agreement.
Without that agreement, which also delivered huge increases in defense spending, the Pentagon’s budget would actually shrink next year.
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