After a third day of Republican and Democratic leaders emphatically insisting to any reporter who would listen that their long-promised $1.3 trillion “omnibus” budget deal would be ready by Monday night (then Tuesday night, then some time Wednesday) it appears that a compromise has finally been attained.
The Washington Post is reporting that the (tentative) deal does quite give President Trump everything he wanted on immigration (actually Republicans agreed to some major concessions on that front) but it does withhold funding for a tunnel connecting New York City and New Jersey – something that Trump had lobbied for out of what appeared to be pure spite for the inhabitants of his home town (and its suburbs), which have largely turned against him.
The deal appeared in jeopardy for a brief moment Wednesday afternoon when it leaked that Trump was reportedly considering withdrawing his support for the bill. But after a midday meeting with Paul Ryan, the White House confirmed that POTUS had changed his mind.
The text of the bill should be available early Thursday, lawmakers said.
WaPo’s story captures the excitement surrounding a deal – with lawmakers counting on Ryan to flip Trump back to a yes.
Top congressional lawmakers huddled in Ryan’s office in the morning. Leaving the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both said a deal was close.
“We’re feeling very good about this,” Schumer said. “We’ve accomplished many, many, many of our goals. When it’s unveiled, you will see.”
Later in the day, with no bill introduced, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) played down any drama over Trump’s support: “Last I heard is the president supports this package,” he said. A Ryan spokeswoman issued a statement saying Trump “is supportive of the bill” following their meeting.
It is unclear how soon Congress might vote on the bill. The chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee said Wednesday that the House would vote Thursday, though the vote could move to Friday.
It’s also worth reminding readers that, during the Trump era, it’s not done until the president signs.
When it came to border wall funding, Republicans caved and – just as Trump was prepared to do during his first post-election 60 Minutes interview – accepted a fence.
According to the three officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive negotiations, the spending deal also includes $1.6 billion in funding for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — routing taxpayer funding to a key Trump priority. But the number is far short of the $25 billion the administration sought. Democrats also won tight restrictions on how that money can be spent, two officials said.
During a press conference Wednesday night, Paul Ryan assured his audience that there would be “many, many structures” along the border, raising the bar for Washington euphemisms.
Trump’s victory on the tunnel could potentially lead to commuters in a region that accounts for one-fifth of US GDP being permanently stranded from their work.
The Trump administration appears to have succeeded in blocking efforts to direct $900 million in planned seed funding to the $30 billion Gateway project to improve passenger rail service to and from Manhattan, including a new tunnel under the Hudson River.
The project has been a key priority for lawmakers of both parties, including Schumer and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.). But according to several officials familiar with his thinking, Trump was determined not to hand Schumer a win while Democrats stood in the way of his administration’s priorities, and he issued a veto threat. A Democratic aide said the project could still benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars in Transportation Department funding, though in some cases it would have to compete with other projects.
The deal will also include a compromise on guns.
One late-breaking deal surrounds gun laws: Democrats agreed to add bipartisan legislation to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for gun buyers and Republicans agreed to add language making clear that federal funds can be spent on research into gun violence — clarifying a long-standing restriction that has been interpreted as preventing such research.
Whether the deal is officially finalized is still far from certain. There are many factors that could derail it. A Freedom Caucus rebellion or another bout of cold feet from Trump are two possibilities that come to mind.