Senate negotiations over government funding for next year have already hit a snag, raising the prospect that lawmakers will need to pass a short-term continuing resolution in order to avert a federal government shutdown at the end of the month.
“We will have to do a CR,” one Democratic House aide told CNN. “There is no question now.”
The drama kicked off Tuesday morning when Republicans learned Democrats planned to offer an abortion-related amendment to a Health and Human Services funding bill that would deny funding to the Trump administration to implement their proposed Title 10 rule. The rule would prohibit taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from discussing abortion with patients or referring patients to abortion providers. As a result, Republican announced they were postponing a subcommittee markup on the bill and aides tell CNN that a full committee markup scheduled for Thursday on the legislation could also be postponed.
The dustup is just the beginning as Republican and Democratic leaders have returned to Washington with just a dozen legislative days to stave off a shutdown and find a way to negotiate the country’s spending bills amid disagreements over how to fund the President’s border wall.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, animated at a news conference, said the Democrats’ attempt to add the abortion funding provision violated a recent bipartisan spending caps agreement that said no controversial provisions – anything not already in law – could be added to the spending bills this fall without the agreement of all the party leaders.
“I’m going to call it a troubling sign,” McConnell said.
Democrats have argued that because two GOP senators – Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – were expected to back their amendment, it didn’t meet the definition of a poisonous rider.
“An agreement is sometimes in the eye of the beholder and how someone defines something,” Sen. Dick Shelby, the Alabama Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee, told CNN.
Democrats dismissed GOP complaints about the abortion provision and said it was an effort to distract from what they said was $12 billion Republicans wanted to add for President Donald Trump’s campaign promise of a border wall with Mexico.
“They know darn well $12 billion additional money for the wall is not gonna fly with Senate Democrats or the House,” Schumer said. “So, they ought to get to serious negotiating now that they’ve shown the President their fealty to him.”
“We think our allocations are fair and good,” Shelby said in response to the Democrats’ complaints. “I’ve always said if the President spends it – and the courts have upheld what he’s been doing – than we ought to backfill it.
“It’s politics,” Shelby added.