Appropriations bills break down in Senate over GOP poison pills


I warned you at the end of July that The budget deal does not avert a government shutdown this fall. Congress still has to pass the appropriations bills to fund the government by September 30.

Already, “Senate appropriators had barely begun work on Tuesday before the process blew up, mired in disagreements over abortion-related “poison pills,” funding for domestic programs and President Donald Trump’s border wall.” Senate spending bills thrown into chaos over abortion policy, border wall:

The squabbling reinforces the likelihood that a stopgap spending bill will be needed through mid-November or early December, which House and Senate leaders are mulling as they face another government shutdown at the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats are trying to “wiggle out” of a handshake agreement included in the budget deal signed by Trump last month, which was aimed at ensuring both sides avoid overly partisan policy provisions that could tank appropriations bills.

“I’m going to call this a troubling sign, and I hope that’s all it is, and we’ll get past this,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters on Tuesday.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said poison pills aren’t the problem. Republicans want to increase funding for the wall by $12 billion, taking as much as $5 billion from domestic programs and pilfering more military construction funds, he said.

“They know darn well that $12 billion in additional monies for the wall isn’t going to fly with Senate Democrats or the House,” Schumer said. “So they ought to get serious negotiating now that they’ve shown the president they’re paying a little more fealty to him.”

The uproar began on Tuesday after Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) informed colleagues that she would introduce an amendment to the fiscal 2020 funding bill for the Department of Health and Human Services barring the Trump administration from implementing its Title X family planning rule, a Senate GOP aide said.

As a result, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) abruptly canceled a subcommittee markup for the Labor-HHS-Education measure. Any work on the bill will be postponed until both sides can hash out what constitutes a “poison pill,” the aide said. The full committee is still scheduled to consider the bill on Thursday.

“Title X has always had strong bipartisan support, so I’m unclear why they fear voting on it now,” Murray told POLITICO.

Shelby said it’s “premature” to speculate about whether Thursday’s full committee markup will be postponed, floating the idea that the bill could advance without the subcommittee’s stamp of approval.

“You know, we don’t have to have a subcommittee meeting. We could go right to the full committee,” he said.

Appropriators earlier Tuesday had easily approved in subcommittee the $695 billion fiscal 2020 Defense spending bill, which would boost funding for F-35 aircraft.

Senate Democrats are also balking at Republicans’ proposed Labor-HHS-Education allocation, which amounts to a 1 percent increase over the fiscal 2019 level of $180 billion, the Senate GOP aide said. They also want to add a provision to the fiscal 2020 funding measure for the State Department that would nix the so-called Mexico City policy, which bars U.S. foreign aid from flowing to groups that promote or provide abortion.

Democrats think the proposed allocation for the Department of Homeland Security, which the GOP aide didn’t disclose, is too high. And they’re objecting to a lack of protections in the Defense bill that would prevent Trump from diverting funds to build a border wall.

“Senate Republicans have decided to begin the appropriations process with a partisan plan to raid taxpayer dollars from health care programs, education, job training and our military to pay for an ineffective border wall that will do nothing to address the humanitarian crisis on our southern border,” a Senate Democratic aide said in a statement.

They have refused to restrict the president’s ability to steal from funds appropriated for the military and their families. [Senate Appropriations] Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy is hopeful the Committee can get back on track to complete a bipartisan appropriations process.”

Leahy (D-Vt.) plans to offer his own set of fiscal 2020 funding levels for all 12 Senate spending bills, his office confirmed. Schumer said levels set by Republicans were not negotiated with Democratic input.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) indicated that Senate Democrats plan to take action on Thursday when the full Senate Appropriations Committee takes up the fiscal 2020 Defense measure, possibly introducing an amendment that would block the Trump administration from any further border wall cash grabs.

“Congress cannot and should not be silent when the power of the purse is undermined in this way,” he said. “Why are we here? Why do we have an Appropriations Committee if this president can ask for money for certain purposes, we appropriate it, and then he ignores us and takes the money for his own political agenda?”

“I am certain my colleagues and I will be ready on Thursday in the full committee to ask … all the members of the Appropriations Committee to stand up for our own constitutional responsibility,” Durbin said.

The writing is on the wall. All of this is going to lead to another stop-gap spending measure because “The Grim Reaper,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is all about partisan posturing, not governing responsibly. McConnell backs short-term spending bill to avert shutdown:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed a short-term spending bill to avoid a shutdown, a recognition that Congress needs several more weeks of negotiations to hatch a longer-term spending bill and fund the government into next fall.

McConnell’s position aligns with that of House Democratic leaders, who said the chamber will vote next week on a stopgap bill to fund the government past Sept. 30. McConnell said the Senate’s focus in September will be working out yearlong funding bills based on the two-year budget agreement forged before the August recess.

“A major focus of the Senate this month will be moving forward as many of the regular appropriations bills as possible and then passing a temporary continuing resolution for the outstanding parts of the government before the end of September,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday. With consent from all 100 senators, the Senate can quickly take up and pass a short-term spending bill later this month.

Well, there’s the problem. Senator Aqua Buddha, Rand Paul (R-KY), likes to object to unanimous consent votes on spending bills because (1) it gives him free media time, (2) to do fundraising grifting from his crazy base. McConnell is so ineffective, he cannot even keep his seat-mate from Kentucky from grandstanding.

Congressional leaders have not yet decided on the length of time the funding bill would cover, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has suggested until Nov. 22. Typically, leaders use a date near a major holiday to force action to fund the government, although last year the Trump government shut down in late December was due to a dispute between Democrats and President Donald Trump over border wall funding.

Still, last year Senate Republicans passed more of the 12 annual appropriations bills than they had in years – Ah, do want a gold star for doing your damn job? – funding roughly 75 percent of the government before that partial shutdown. McConnell said he was “confident” the Senate could pass some of those bills in the coming weeks then avert a shutdown of the remaining unfunded departments.

McConnell believed that he had a deal last year and even had the Senate vote on it before Donald Trump reneged on the deal, so what good are his assurances? We have an erratic president who takes his directives from Fox & Friends each morning, and whose word is not worth a damn.

Trump declined to sign off on the Senate’s stopgap spending bill last year since it did not provide significant boosts in border funding. But this time, Republicans believe that since he’s received billions in border funding via his national emergency declaration, the president will agree to congressional leaders’ spending plan.

Oh, so Republicans are OK with Trump invading the congressional constitutional “power over the purse” (separation of powers) and his theft of funds deliberated by Congress and appropriated to the Department of Defense in order to build his medieval vanity project as part of a campaign stunt? Are they so in thrall to authoritarianism and their “Dear Leader” that they will be willing accomplices to undermining the Constitution? They all need to be defeated.