Politics

Senate GOP Appropriators Stress Bipartisanship in Trump Meeting

‘If you want to keep this country strong, we’re going to have to make some trade-offs as Republicans’

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., right, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., conduct a news conference in the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Republican appropriators on Tuesday urged President Donald Trump to work with Democrats to enact spending bills before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, as long as sufficient resources are devoted to border security.

“If you want to keep this country strong, we’re going to have to make some trade-offs as Republicans,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said at the start of a meeting with Trump. “I’m willing to work with Democrats to get to ‘yes.’ But, ‘yes’ has to be consistent with being strong.”

Trump repeatedly criticized Democrats during the meeting, saying they aren’t tough enough on border security issues or immigration policy.

“What we’re looking for as Republicans I can tell you is strong borders, no crime. What the Democrats are looking for is open borders, which will bring tremendous crime,” Trump said at the meeting’s outset, adding Republicans are going to “run on border security” in the upcoming elections.

Watch: Trump Asks GOP Lawmakers for Border Wall Funding

Trump also said “it would be nice if we could work better with the Democrats and they could work better with us.”

Trump told the group of about 15 lawmakers, split almost evenly between House and Senate Republicans, that he is going to ask for additional money for border wall construction. “We had $1.6 billion [in the fiscal 2019 request]. But we’re going to ask for an increase in wall spending, so we can finish quicker,” he said. 

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney also attended.

The Senate’s fiscal 2019 Homeland Security spending bill includes the $1.6 billion as requested initially. The House version hasn’t been released yet, but is expected to include about $2.24 billion, in line with the multiyear border security funding package contained in a separate immigration bill on the House floor this week. 

The meeting with appropriators comes a little over a week after Trump met with Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., and Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., both of whom were at Tuesday’s meeting.

Capito urged Trump to work with all lawmakers on the spending process.

“I want you to know that your message is loud and clear on funding our homeland security,” Capito said. “But that message that you carry, is a message that we all share. Our bill went out . . .  with very robust Democratic support.”

Several other appropriators spoke to Trump directly about the support Democrats gave to spending bills in the Senate, where nine of the 10 bills reported out of the full committee have gone out with unanimous support from Democrats. Homeland Security, the only exception, Senate Democrats approved 26-5.

“We are in the first quarter of the appropriations process, if you want to use a football analogy,” Shelby said. “We’re doing well right now. We’re working together. I think both sides — Democrats and Republicans — realize it’s in their best interest and the interest of the American people for us to pass on time our regular appropriations bills.”

Shelby told Trump that his promise not to sign another 12-bill omnibus package “resonates with all of us.”

Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va., said lawmakers should pass the Defense spending bill before the start of the fiscal year to avoid the Pentagon having to operate under another continuing resolution

“I can’t leave this room without stating that we can’t have continuing resolutions and government shutdowns when it comes to defense,” he said. “Continuing resolutions are absolutely devastating, so we just have to make sure that we’re shepherding this process.”

The House’s $675 billion Defense measure is on the floor this week, while the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved its version on Tuesday, which is set for full committee action Thursday. But Senate Democrats are reluctant to let the Defense bill move prior to the Labor-HHS-Education bill, the largest of the nondefense appropriations bills.

House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., said during the White House meeting that he sees some logic in tying his bill to the Defense measure.

“We know for us Republicans, Defense is number one. Quite honestly, for Democrats, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education tend to be number one, and I think they’ll hold you hostage in the Senate until we move [the Labor-HHS-Education bill],” Cole said. 

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