WASHINGTON President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans who control Congress face their first major budget test next week, with the threat of a U.S. government shutdown potentially hinging on his proposed Mexican border wall as well as Obamacare funding.
With Republicans controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, keeping the federal government operating is a basic test of their ability to govern, but their task could become even more complicated if they insist on using the spending legislation to bring about contentious policy changes.
Not only must Republicans overcome intraparty ideological divisions that stopped major healthcare legislation last month, but they will have to win over some opposition Democrats with provisions that could be distasteful to conservatives.
With the Senate reconvening on Monday and the House of Representatives on Tuesday after a two-week recess, lawmakers will have only four days to pass a spending package to keep the government open beyond April 28, when funding expires for numerous federal programs.
“I think we want to keep the government open,” Trump said on Thursday, adding he thinks Congress can pass the funding legislation and perhaps also a revamped healthcare bill.
Democratic support depends on what provisions Republicans demand in the bill. Democrats have signaled they would not cooperate if it contains money for one of Trump’s top priorities, a southwestern border wall intended to combat illegal immigration, or if it ends federal subsidies to help low-income people buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which Republicans want to repeal.
Democrats also want federal funds maintained for Planned Parenthood, which many Republicans oppose because the women’s healthcare provider performs abortions. Another obstacle would be if Trump demands large defense spending increases coupled with deep cuts to domestic programs Democrats want to protect.
Late on Thursday, leading House Democrats were voicing skepticism a deal could be reached by the deadline. In a telephone call for House Democrats, Representative Nita Lowey, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said: “I don’t see how we can meet that deadline” and avoid having to pass a short-term extension, according to an aide on the call.
The second-ranking House Democrat, Representative Steny Hoyer, told his fellow Democrats that they should only support such a short-term measure if a deal on long-term bill is reached and only finishing touches remained, the aide said.
Republican leaders face a familiar balancing act: satisfying the party’s most conservative members while not alienating its moderates.
Rules in the 100-seat Senate mean Trump’s party also would need the support of at least eight Democrats even if the Republicans remain unified, giving the opposition party leverage….