Republicans Consider More Must-Pass Items for Spending Measures

White House legislative liaison points to leverage that came from adding CHIP

Signs outside of the Library of Congress in Washington on Jan. 21, 2018, notifying visitors that all Library of Congress buildings were to the public during the recent government shutdown. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans are considering attaching more of Democratic leaders’ must-pass legislative items to stopgap spending measures to avert additional government shutdowns and close out funding for this fiscal year, says a senior White House official.

The possible strategy is, in part, a lesson from the most recent Washington funding fight, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said Monday. Attaching a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program to the continuing resolution Congress passed last week and President Donald Trump signed into law ending a three-day shutdown put pressure on Senate Democrats to relent.

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For months, White House officials, congressional leaders and members of the Appropriations committees have said a deal on defense and domestic spending caps allow the spending panels to craft a government-wide spending bill for fiscal 2018 is close. The federal apparatus is operating on a stopgap, with more short-term measures likely to come.

Short, a Washington veteran who is a cool and calm messenger for Trump on Capitol Hill and national television appearances, grew a bit animated when asked what is holding up a deal.

“The budget deal’s there. The budget deal’s there,” Short told Roll Call in an interview in his second-floor West Wing office.

“The holdup is we cannot move to it until we get 10 votes from [Senate] Democrats. There’s not enough votes on a motion to proceed to it until Democrats are willing to say we can do that,” Short said, referring to Senate rules designed to encourage consensus that require 60 votes to cut off debate. 

Short, a former congressional aide who was chief of staff of the House GOP conference when Vice President Mike Pence was its chairman, said it was the fault of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

“What Schumer and Pelosi have said to their conference is, ‘We need four things done all at once: We need SCHIP; we need [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], we need budget caps; and we need the disaster-relief package.’”

White House and congressional GOP leaders believe “in essence, on the last CR, we peeled off the CHIP bill,” Short said, arguing that Democrats: “felt the pressure of” to relent on the shutdown because of it and “I think we might have to start picking them off one-by-one.”

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The possible strategy could come into play as soon as Feb. 8, when the existing stopgap expires. “My worry is that they’re (Democrats) not looking to shut down the government next time — they’re just looking to do CRs,” Short said.

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