Eyeing Trump presidency, conservatives want to delay funding fight

Bullish of former President Trump’s chances of winning back the White House in November, some conservatives are pitching a funding stopgap that would extend into next year rather than expire during a lame duck session when President Biden would still be in office.

Congress’s 12 annual funding bills for fiscal 2025 come due Sept. 30, but negotiators are already saying a stopgap will likely be necessary to keep the government open until sometime after the November election.

And rifts are already showing among members about the duration of such a measure.

Some conservatives argue extending the stopgap past January would allow Trump, should he win, more input on how government funding runs through most of next year.

“First off, we should do budgets first,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told The Hill earlier this month. But, in the likely event that a stopgap is needed come September, Scott suggested a stopgap “through probably next March.”

“So, we can make sure that it’s not done in a lame duck where people waste a whole bunch of money through a big omnibus and we already give the next president the ability to weigh in,” he said.

Other conservatives have made similar arguments in recent weeks. Some also say a stopgap into next year would lessen chances of lawmakers having to swallow down a sprawling, end-of-year omnibus package.

“You could go Sept. 30 to March 31,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said Wednesday, adding, “I don’t think lame ducks ought to be controlling the power of what we tried to get done in December.”

“You give the president time to get in, gotta deal with the debt ceiling, maybe not immediately, but you’ve got to start getting everything organized to deal with the debt ceiling, to deal with what we’re going to have reconciliation and deal with the spending issue.”

“Why are we going to get let potentially lame duck politicians set spending in this country for another year with $35 trillion in debt? I don’t think we should do that,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) said.

At the same time, other Republicans say they want Congress to finish its funding work during the lame duck, as lawmakers are already staring down a jam-packed 2025 schedule — when another fight over the nation’s debt limit is expected and key tax breaks in Trump’s signature 2017 tax law are set to expire.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who heads the House Appropriations Committee, said earlier this month that, while he “understands” the push by conservatives, he doesn’t “agree with it.”

“I think they believe, which I agree with, we will win the presidential, and they think that will give them more leverage,” Cole said. But, he said, similar strategies undertaken in the past have not always had the biggest impact on leverage.

“I was around here in 2017 when we tried that, and we had the House, the Senate, obviously President Trump won,” he said. But Republicans still “did not have more leverage because you still have the filibuster in the United States Senate.”

Cole was referring to the 60-vote threshold in the Senate required to pass most bills. A filibuster-proof majority, or a “supermajority,” in the upper chamber is rare — the last time either party had such control in the Senate was under former President Obama.

“We forced [Trump] to have to sign bills that he did not get to negotiate … Frankly, they didn’t even have an [Office of Management and Budget] director at the time we got him done,” he said. “I don’t think you do that to a new president, and honestly, I don’t think you do it to a new Congress.”

“They’re going to be asked to vote on bills that they had nothing to do with, they had no chance to understand,” Cole said. “None of them will likely be on the Appropriations Committee on either side. It’s just unfair. So, this Congress should do its work within its two year time frame.”

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Wednesday that there is “thoughtful discussion” on what Republicans will “ultimately do.”

“There are pros and cons to all these approaches,” he said when pressed about talk around a stopgap. He also pointed to some concerns about a stopgap that extends into spring and how that “would encumber the calendar a little bit.”

“If you’re having to deal with appropriations in that first 100 days when we have all these other things that we want to be doing,” he said. “So we’re trying to balance all those interests and do what is the most responsible thing for the country, fiscally responsible, and by policy as well.”

Meanwhile, some Democrats are already shutting the door on the idea of a stopgap into early 2025.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, last week called the pitch to delay a funding deal into next year “unacceptable.”

“He’s not going to win. It’s unacceptable. We’ll do it in the lame duck. We’ve done it in December in the past. We’ll do it again,” she said, before pointing to how the last annual funding fight played out in Congress that ended in March.

“I mean, six months into the fiscal year. That’s not governing,” she said. “That’s what we come here to do.”

Congress had to pass multiple stopgaps as part of the fiscal 2024 funding fight to keep the government from shutting down as partisan and intraparty divides, primarily among House Republicans, on spending and policy dragged out for months.

Negotiators tasked with crafting the annual funding bills have blamed the nasty, protracted funding fight on their late start in assembling their bills for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct.1.

House Republicans have been moving quickly this year to pass their annual funding legislation out of committee, with hopes of passing all 12 across the floor before the August recess.

The party notched a small victory earlier this month in passing its first funding bill for fiscal 2025, laying out roughly $379 billion in overall funding for much of next year for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction programs.

However, leadership still faces tough challenges ahead as they look to pass the remaining 11 bills, particularly as negotiators craft annual funding for agencies such as the FBI and promise big cuts on the way for other nondefense programs that could prove to be difficult votes for moderates ahead of the November elections.

The Senate, meanwhile, has yet to move funding legislation, as negotiators have said they’re still trying to reach a deal on overall funding levels.

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