Johnson, Biden risk blowback from all sides on government funding deal

President Biden and Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) are risking political blowback from the left and the right on a six-bill spending package that lawmakers are scrambling to pass before the government shuts down Saturday.

Congressional aides were still finalizing the text of the deal Tuesday afternoon, but lawmakers say they expect the bill to become public soon and predict it will draw fire from both sides of the political spectrum.

The pushback the legislation faces in both chambers could make it difficult to get to President Biden’s desk by 11:59 p.m. Friday, when funding for a large swath of the federal government will expire.

Senior White House officials took over the final stages of the negotiations with Johnson, leaving some Senate Democrats frustrated by the last-minute change in direction and the resulting deal, which will provide more funding for beds and detention facilities at the southern border.

A source familiar with the deal said it includes cuts in federal funding for nongovernmental organizations that provide transportation and food vouchers to migrants who are released into the country on asylum claims. This concession to House Republicans won’t please immigrant advocates on the left.

A Senate source briefed on the deal said some Democratic colleagues and groups on the left won’t be “thrilled” with elements of the Homeland Security appropriations bill but argued “it’s not horrible.”

But the source emphasized Biden’s team helped get an agreement with the Speaker, something that was in serious doubt last week.

“That the White House was able to get an agreement jumps over the frustration,” the source said.

Another source familiar with the behind-the-scenes negotiations said the White House wanted to have some ownership of a bipartisan deal with Johnson to address border security after the deal it negotiated with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) fell apart last month.

That proposal, which was endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council, would have increased the total number of beds at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities to a total of 50,000.

The Department of Homeland Security faced the prospect of having to shift funding to ICE from other critical priorities to manage a shortfall of several hundred million dollars.

Immigrant advocates in the Senate and off Capitol Hill railed against the proposed expansion of detention facilities when the White House signed off on it last month.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) panned the proposal last month as “a new version of a failed Trump-era immigration policy that will cause more chaos at the border.”

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) at the time called it an “enforcement wish list from the Trump administration.”

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), a leading Senate voice on immigration issues, said Tuesday that he wants to review the details of the deal before commenting on concessions to Republicans.

“I want to look at the whole package,” he said.

“There will be some things in this I don’t like and some things I like,” he added.

Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) applauded Biden for getting directly involved in the negotiations, arguing the president needed to show leadership in addressing what he called the “border problem.”

“It’s good for the president to show that he is determined to secure the border,” he said.

Asked about the criticism Biden’s going to receive from liberals, Welch said: “We’ve got a border problem. We need to control our border, and we also need more legal immigration.”

While Biden will face criticisms from the left, Johnson will take fire from conservatives who wanted to add the core elements of H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) dismissed as a non-starter.

Johnson is already getting some criticism. Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are trying to rally colleagues to oppose the spending package, warning it will fund Biden’s border policies.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a member of the Freedom Caucus, voiced his frustration over the spending package not including border policy reforms.

He noted the House sent its border security proposal to the Senate more than 313 days ago, “yet this week — the House will consider a bill directly funding the disastrous open border policies that H.R. 2 would have ended.

Forty-three House Republicans, including Perry, circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter this week warning that funding the Department of Homeland Security without policy changes would actively fund what they called “Biden’s ‘open borders’ policies.”

A person familiar with the negotiations between the White House and Speaker said they were focused mainly on funding questions instead of adding major policy riders that Democrats have already declared non-starters.

“House and Senate committees have begun drafting bill text to be prepared for release and consideration by the full House and Senate as soon as possible,” Johnson wrote Tuesday morning on social media.

The secrecy cloaking the details of the spending package is raising the hackles of Senate and House conservatives who say it won’t go far enough to limit federal spending and shore up border security.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) warned on social media that Johnson “will soon release a huge spending deal to keep the government funded past Friday.”

“It’ll be full of corrupting earmarks. It won’t force Biden to secure the border. It’ll perpetuate massive deficit. It doesn’t have to be like this. It all starts by voting ‘NO!’” he declared.

House and Senate leaders face a daunting obstacle course as they race to pass the massive funding package by Friday’s deadline.

House rules require that the bill be posted publicly for at least 72 hours before lawmakers vote on it to give them enough time to read and digest its contents.

Unless Johnson waives the 72-hour rule, that could delay a House vote until Friday or Saturday, depending on when the text is unveiled.

The bill will also encounter opposition from Senate conservatives who want an opportunity to offer amendments, something that delayed final passage of the first tranche of funding bills until a few hours before an earlier deadline to avoid a partial shutdown.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.), however, said the Speaker will be able to claim credit for provisions in the bill to improve border security, countering the narrative pushed by Democrats that House Republicans can’t govern.

“If they can get the Homeland bill pulled together with some of the provisions in it and get it across the finish line … that’s what enable[s] him to take credit for some of the things included there,” he said.

This story was updated at 6:50 p.m.

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