Oct 30, 2019

Impeachment complicates spending fight Republicans don't want

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Multiple Hill aides tell Axios that Republicans have no appetite for another government shutdown over President Donald Trump's border wall in mid-November, but amid the impeachment fight, Democrats are voicing concerns that Trump may hijack the spending process.

What they're saying: "I’m worried, again, that the president is going to push us to a shutdown," Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, told Axios.

  • "[Trump] always likes to create diversions,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters on Tuesday. “I hope and pray he won’t want to cause another government shutdown because it might be a diversion away from impeachment."

The key issue: House Democrats want to prevent Trump from transferring funds from elsewhere in the government to be used for the wall. Senate Republicans want $5 billion to go to the wall's construction.

  • "We’re at an impasse," one Democratic staffer said.
  • A short-term spending bill into early 2020 is the likeliest fix.
  • The question is whether Trump will accept that.

House Democrats are ready to offer up a clean, short-term spending bill on the Nov. 21 deadline — and Trump could view that as a dare to shut down the government.

Meanwhile, the Senate is moving forward to try to pass funding bills for parts of the government not involved in the border wall.

  • A senior GOP Senate aide told Axios that Democrats are the only ones talking about the shutdown, and that “it’s no joke that Dems can’t walk and chew gum at the same time while they obsess over impeachment.”

The big picture: Last year's prolonged government shutdown over the border wall backfired politically against President Trump and Republicans. Republicans have "zero appetite" to do it again, one Senate GOP aid told Axios. But time is ticking. Congress is up against the holidays, priorities including the USMCA and an impeachment proceeding that may eventually shut down the Senate.

  • In private, Cuellar said, his Republican colleagues have expressed fatigue over the border wall issue. "They wish we could just do the appropriation bills and just move on," he said, but, "they’re not going to do that publicly."

What to watch: Funding deadlines in the House and Senate coinciding with the impeachment process could cause logistical problems.

  • ”Once they pass something in the House, then [impeachment] shuts down the Senate," Brendan Buck, who was an aide to former House Speaker Paul Ryan, told Axios.

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