The fractured House Democrat Conference amid a burgeoning fight between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats’ left flank led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), along with disagreements between some Senate Republicans and the Trump administration, threaten to complicate upcoming spending and debt ceiling negotiations between Congress and the White House.
Sources familiar with the matter tell Breitbart News that Pelosi’s team is pushing to use as leverage for increased spending levels and Democrat policy priorities a looming debt ceiling deadline, pushing for spending as high as $2 trillion above current law. Pelosi’s opening bid for a two-year budget agreement would set government spending levels at where House Democrats’ appropriations packages are, which is much higher spending levels than current law mixed with policy riders that restrict immigration enforcement, as well as push the left’s view on climate, healthcare, abortion, and other policy matters.
But Pelosi’s hand may not be as strong as she is playing behind the scenes, some in the Trump administration feel. In recent weeks, House Democrats were completely rolled on an emergency border appropriations package by Senate Republicans after Ocasio-Cortez and other leftists in the conference had successfully pushed into the House version of the bill a number of anti-enforcement policy riders.
What had happened was after months of refusing to pass additional appropriations for more funding for the crisis at the border, Pelosi and House Democrats finally agreed that there was indeed a crisis at the border and came together behind a package for additional emergency funding for Border Patrol facilities. But during the process, Ocasio-Cortez and her allies successfully inserted into the bill a number of policy provisions that restricted immigration enforcement—and hamstrung immigration officers. The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate, but Senate Republicans—and a handful of Senate Democrats—passed their own bill without these Ocasio-Cortez-backed enforcement restrictions sending the Senate bill back to the House.
Over the objections of Ocasio-Cortez and other leftists, Pelosi took up and passed out of the House the Senate-passed bipartisan bill—dealing a significant blow to the left of her conference and opening up the current battle between Pelosi and her left flank. it was also the first time since Pelosi became Speaker again this year that President Trump and congressional Republicans seriously won a major policy fight with Democrats, all thanks to the fractures in the House Democrat conference.
Pelosi is powering through this moving into the coming spending bill and debt ceiling negotiations making a big opening bid for a two-year appropriations bill that funds the government through September 2021—long past the next presidential election, and long past the swearing-in of the next Congress in January 2021—at Democrat-proposed spending levels. Sources with knowledge of the matter tell Breitbart News that she is threatening to hold up a debt ceiling increase to get her way, but the Trump administration is convinced she cannot back up the bluff with actual muster because so-called moderates in her conference will not go for it.
While the leftists like Ocasio-Cortez’s “squad,” as many are calling her group of members that includes Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and others, dominate the headlines, much of the reason why Pelosi is Speaker again and Democrats retook the House Majority in November 2018 is because of more moderate Democrats from swing districts, who are silently opposed to these leftist policy priorities that Ocasio-Cortez’s squad is driving. Members like Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), Ben McAdams (D-UT), Max Rose (D-NY), and many others face tough 2020 re-election battles in deep-red districts won by President Trump heavily in 2016.
While the White House and Trump administration are more bullish on their chances in a debt ceiling and spending bill showdown with House Democrats, who they view as mostly irrelevant now that Pelosi has been exposed in the border spending fight, some Senate Republicans have been pushing the two-year appropriations bill process to avoid a squabble.
Politico reported on a letter signed by a number of Senate Republicans written to top Trump administration officials pushing against the idea of a one-year continuing resolution and clean debt ceiling hike—which is what the Trump administration is proposing.
“While some members of the Administration have suggested a yearlong CR as a viable path forward, this must be avoided,” the GOP senators wrote in the letter that Politico published. “Simply put, our adversaries do not handcuff their militaries with funding gimmicks like continuing resolutions — nor should we.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the letter was led by usual Trump ally Sen. David Perdue (R-GA)—and signed by more than a dozen other GOP senators.
From here, however, Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, acting Office of Management and Budget director Russ Vought, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, sources say, are planning to work to unify the GOP behind the White House’s vision.
The reason why the administration thinks its plan is better is because the White House is almost certain that President Trump will be re-elected in 2020, and assuming he is the White House believes there is a good chance that he will carry Republicans back into the majority in the House while holding their Senate majority. As such, the White House plan would only lock in spending levels at current levels via a continuing resolution until the end of September 2020, at which point there would be another short-term deal until after the election, and then Republicans would be able to set policy much sooner into 2021 rather than tying the hands of a potential future GOP Congress for almost a year. What’s more, the White House and Trump administration fear that under the appropriations process that Pelosi and some congressional Republicans are pushing for, there could be inserted into the bill a number of riders including immigration enforcement restrictions, leftist climate policy, Obamacare protections, over abortion and other leftist values, and more.
The administration is fairly certain, sources say, it can win a bigger battle with Pelosi much the same way it won the smaller border emergency funding battle if Republicans get on the same page—and it is confident the GOP on Capitol Hill will unite, and it is engaged in efforts as of right now to do so.
The calendar is tightening quickly as these seemingly far-off deadline approach fast. There are only a few weeks left in July, the last of which will be dominated by the upcoming second Democrat presidential primary debate hosted by CNN in Detroit. The deadlines on the debt ceiling and spending deals come up in September, and with Congress not in session over the August recess that leaves scarce little time for congressional and administration negotiators to reach a resolution.