House GOP leaders are wrestling with how exactly they’re going to keep the government open through Christmastime — while also affirming support for President Donald Trump’s border wall — in the final weeks of their majority.
One option Speaker Paul Ryan and his deputies are considering is a short-term bill that fully funds Trump’s $5 billion wall request, but freezes the rest of federal spending through early 2019, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations. That stopgap package would also include billions of dollars for California’s deadly wildfire season, as well as other natural disasters.
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A broader, full-year funding package is also under discussion that includes $5 billion for the border wall, as well as six other GOP-backed spending bills jammed with red-meat for conservatives. That omnibus would also include disaster aid.
But any House bill on these lines — even if it could pass — would almost certainly be rejected by Senate Democrats.
Meanwhile, GOP leaders have just nine days before one-quarter of the federal government shuts down, a scenario that Trump himself has been stoking on national television.
Either of the House’s options must also account for the GOP’s attendance problem in the final weeks of the lame-duck session. House Republicans face a real morale problem after last month’s Election Day drubbing, and dozens of GOP lawmakers have already skipped multiple votes on their way out.
GOP leaders plan to discuss the strategy at a Wednesday afternoon meeting.
Failing to secure the votes would be the ultimate humiliation for GOP leaders: Watching Trump’s border wall funding bill die in a Republican-dominated House, just as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi predicted to Trump himself on Tuesday.
Leadership is under mounting pressure from the party’s right flank to vote on a $5 billion border wall bill after Tuesday’s extraordinary exchange in the Oval Office, when Pelosi told Trump that he does not have enough votes in the House to pass a wall funding bill.
But there’s also a concern that the GOP’s moderates — many of whom feel their losses hinged on Trump — will feel zero need to take a final stand on the wall.
Republicans have, so far, done little more than discuss the bill, and have yet to begin a formal whipping operation across the GOP conference — to the aggravation of conservative lawmakers and aides.
Rep. Mike Coffman, a moderate Republican who lost on Election Day, said Republicans almost have to vote for a stopgap spending bill that includes $5 billion in wall money after Pelosi’s taunts. While he prefers to enact new appropriations bills, he’d back a continuing resolution plus wall money to bolster the party’s hand in negotiations.
“It’s not my preference, but from a point of negotiation I think it’s important for Republicans in the House to make that statement,” Coffman said. “When Nancy Pelosi challenged the president by saying, ‘You don’t have the votes,’ that put us in a situation to at least demonstrate from a negotiating standpoint that we do have the votes.
Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), another GOP member ousted in last month’s election, dismissed the question of attendance.
“We’re gonna be here. People are gonna be here. Because we’ve got to get these appropriations bills done,” Culberson said. “I think it’s important that it pass. I think we all need to get behind it and illustrate to the president that we’ve got the support for it.”
Rachael Bade contributed to this report.