Democrats were united, and were the key reason the first big budget vote of the Trump administration was a bipartisan win.
Republicans, though, were split, signaling a deep division that’s unlikely to heal anytime soon..
Those were the loud and clear political messages from Wednesday’s 309-118 House of Representatives vote approving a fiscal 2017 budget to keep the government running past Friday night. Even though Republicans control both Houses of Congress and the White House for the first time in 10 years, Democrats made the difference.
The final tally: 178 Democrats voted for the $1.07 trillion budget plan, and 15 were against it. Among Republicans, 131 voted yes, and 103 voted no.
A similar divide is expected when the Senate votes on the bill, perhaps as early as Thursday. Republicans have 52 of the 100 Senate seats, and as many as half the Republicans might vote no, while a majority of Democrats are expected to vote yes.
The votes signal that in the months ahead, it won’t be easy to unify the GOP behind such bipartisan fiscal deals.
“You’re not seeing a lot of the White House priorities in this bill, so I don’t see how we can say this is a win for the American people,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., another caucus member, thought the bill “really didn’t push the conservative ball down the court very much.”
Democrats, though, were elated. Even though it’s the first big budget of the new Trump administration, it reads almost like an Obama administration blueprint.
“It is clear that Democratic members’ participation is absolutely essential if we are going to pass fiscal bills and appropriation bills,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. “I’m glad that the Republican leadership came to that conclusion and worked with us to advance this omnibus to the floor.”
Missing is money for Trump’s border wall and efforts to punish cities that don’t comply with federal immigration authorities. There’s billions more for medical research and no changes to President Barack Obama’s engagement with Cuba.
Still, Republican leaders said the compromise was a harbinger of better things to come. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. suggested a “second coming” may not be far off.
“There is a lot in this bill that brings us together,” Cole said. “It’s a product of genuine compromise.”
But the fights ahead will be bitter. Congress still needs to craft a budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1 and will represent Trump’s first full year in office. Negotiations are ongoing and expectations for the administration to make its mark will be heightened.
Trump has insisted that the wall will get built, telling Fox News on Tuesday that “the wall’s happening.”
Conservatives are also furious that the legislation doesn’t block funding to Planned Parenthood, but Trump said that, too, would be resolved “at the appropriate time.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who finds himself in the same pinch as his predecessor, John Boehner, R-Ohio, touted the spending plan in an interview Wednesday with conservative radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt,. He cited Republican gains, including a historic increase in border security – including more detention beds and facilities – along with more immigration agents.
Negotiators refused to endorse Trump’s call to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by a third, but Ryan said a 1 percent cut in the agency’s budget would reduce staffing to pre-Obama levels.
“There are the people who, I would argue, are kicking out regulations that are harmful to the economy,” Ryan said. “This gets at that.”
He also said the legislation did not include payments for Obamacare, though Democrats say otherwise.
“This is called spin. This called PR,” Ryan said of Democrats’ claims.
He said Republicans also had prevailed on defense funding, although the budget gives Trump only about half of what he was seeking. Ryan said it would include a 2.1 percent pay hike for military personnel and no requirement that defense spending be on par with domestic spending, which Democrats have championed.
“We have a $21 billion increase in defense spending, and we do not have a $21 billion increase in domestic spending,” Ryan said. “The breaking of that parity requirement shows that we’re now back to fixing defense, and we’re not going to allow it to be held hostage for more bloated domestic spending.”