Democrats rejoiced over a Republican budget filled with liberal priorities that are driving conservatives mad – and laughed as the White House tried mightily to convince GOP doubters that the measure is a good deal for Republicans.
Democrats were downright giddy. Not only was the bill bursting with long-sought party priorities, but it allows them to head into the 2018 elections boasting they triumphed in a Congress and White House dominated by Republicans.
“It may not reflect the values of our president,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of New York said of the budget plan. “But we believe as elected representatives it reflects the values of the American people.”
He suggested it was the Democratic wins that prompted President Donald Trump Tuesday to suggest a government shutdown was needed this fall to fix what said was a “mess” of a budget plan.
“I guess maybe some of the victories we had in this (bill) is maybe getting under the president’s skin a little bit,” Crowley said with a grin.
Even the Democrats’ usually hard-to-please progressive wing, engaged in an increasingly bruising fight for ideological control of the party, was supportive.
Sens. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have been traveling the country, attracting enthusiastic audiences for their progressive messages – and possible 2020 presidential bids. Warren, up for re-election next year, is touring to promote her book, “This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class.”
Warren hailed the $100 million in funding to address the opioid epidemic and the NIH money in the deal. “Sometimes the aggressive negotiations over the budget yield something good,” she said in a press release.
Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, who backed Sanders for the Democratic nomination last year, said he was besieged with calls from organizations “who were afraid that various causes would be eviscerated” but that “they and I are pleased with the bill, by and large.”
Progressive groups agreed. “There is no downside to strongly fighting Trump with backbone,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “It’s good politics and good policy – and a prerequisite to Democrats inspiring voters and winning big in 2018.”
The White House tried hard Tuesday to promote the idea that the budget was in fact a Trump victory, but the bill had much the Democrats sought. There’s money to help Puerto Rico with its fiscal crisis, the National Institutes of Health, former Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer moonshot initiative and famine relief in parts of Africa and the Middle East -- all items on the Democratic wish list.
But there’s no money for a Trump border wall or for additional immigration agents. And there’s no language dunning so-called sanctuary cities that don’t fully cooperate with federal immigration policy.
Republicans now control 238 House seats and need 218 to retain a majority. The Rothenberg-Gonzales report found Monday that 31 Republican and 15 Democratic seats are “in play.”
The GOP has 52 of the 100 Senate seats, but Democrats have to defend 23 seats in 2018 while nine Republicans are up for re-election.
The budget is likely to be an ongoing fight – and therefore ongoing fodder for campaigns. Congress still needs to craft a budget for fiscal 2018, which starts Oct. 1, and again next summer for the fiscal year that begins a month before the 2018 elections.
That’s a big reason why both sides were eager to claim victory Tuesday. If Trump showed pique with the deal early in the day, his administration sought to save face later, casting the president as a leading negotiator on a bill that the administration insisted includes White House priorities.
Among them: More money for defense, border security, an extension of Washington, D.C.’s school voucher program and no language that requires the White House to make any Obamacare insurance payments.
Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney held a conference call with reporters and later stood at the lectern at the White House, charging that Democrats “didn’t get what many of them, including many in their base, wanted” and accusing the party of seeking a shutdown to to sabotage Trump.
“They wanted to try and make this president look like he could not govern. They wanted to make this president look like he did not know what he was doing,” Mulvaney said. “And he beat them on that at the very, highest level.
By the time Trump joined a team of Air Force Academy cadets in the Rose Garden several hours later, he was calling the budget deal a “clear win” for the American people” after “years of partisan bickering.”
Not all Republicans were pleased. The conservative Heritage Foundation’s political arm said it would oppose the measure and would include it as a key vote on its legislative scorecard, saying it was “widely viewed as a rebuke to President Trump’s agenda and conservative priorities.” Conservatives bristled at the additional spending, and Republicans were expected to rely on Democratic votes to pass the measure.
In the meantime, members of the Democratic party’s progressive wing claimed victory and several said they plan to vote for it
“We realize we don’t control the House or the Senate or the White House and to have a spending plan that reflects many Democratic priorities is a clear win,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif. “Not just Democrats, but for the American people.”
Lieu suggested the spending plan was one that could have been passed under former President Obama.
“I agree with President Trump who called this a clear win for the American people,” Lieu said. “Hopefully the president will realize that when he works with Democrats he gets a clear win.”
Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said he was still reviewing the measure, but was encouraged there was money to address the city of Flint’s water crisis. The group unveiled its own budget proposal Tuesday, calling for preschool for all and $2 trillion in infrastructure spending through 2027.
“I understand we were up against the White House and both chambers of Congress, by that measure we did a great job,” Ellison said. “But still, is this what we would have done? No.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., pointed out that Republicans dropped policy riders they had hoped to pass, including defunding Planned Parenthood and docking sanctuary cities.
“It’s been described as a cave in and I think that’s absolutely accurate,” she said. “They were not about to go for a shutdown that they would own and we were not about to give into their unreasonable budget demands.”