A group of House conservatives is launching an 11th-hour bid to tank a sweeping budget deal, pressing President Donald Trump to reject it unless he gets new concessions.
Fiscal conservatives, furious that the agreement provides over $300 billion in new federal spending without being fully paid for, are urging Trump to oppose the deal unless he secures additional funding for Immigration Customs and Enforcement, a top priority on the right.
The agreement — which Trump announced in a tweet on Monday evening — would also raise the debt ceiling for two years, another difficult pill for conservatives to swallow.
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“You should veto this bill because it is fiscally irresponsible,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump, according to a draft obtained by POLITICO. “It blows well beyond what was intended with the 2011 [Budget Control Act] caps. Furthermore, it continues spending hundreds of billions more than what we take in a year and does not put our nation on a path towards a balanced budget.”
And, they added, “it raises our debt ceiling for two years, indulging our national spending addiction.”
The letter, which is being led by freshman Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), is currently being circulated on Capitol Hill and will be sent to the White House after they collect more signatures.
Other likely backers include GOP Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Michael Cloud of Texas and Debbie Lesko of Arizona, who, like Roy, are members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FLa.), a top Trump ally on Capitol Hill, is also expected to sign on to the letter.
“As the greatest nation in the history of the world, the least we can do is cut a deal that does not sabotage the fiscal future of our nation while endangering millions of American and migrants because of our porous border,” the lawmakers wrote. “We can do better.”
The pushback from conservatives could provide a last-minute obstacle for budget negotiators, who had been racing to finalize a deal — and secure Trump’s blessing — before lawmakers head out for the August recess. If Congress does not strike an agreement to lift stiff budget caps and raise the debt ceiling by the fall, the country will be plunged into fiscal disaster.
Trump, however, praised the budget negotiations between congressional leaders and administration officials, providing some needed assurances to the GOP amid the concerns from fiscal conservatives.
“I am pleased to announce that a deal has been struck with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – on a two-year Budget and Debt Ceiling, with no poison pills,” Trump tweeted. “This was a real compromise in order to give another big victory to our Great Military and Vets!”
Fiscal hawks are angry that the cost of spending increases are only partly offset. While White House acting budget director Russell Vought had pushed for at least $150 billion in cuts, the deal only includes around $75 billion worth. Conservatives also don’t like that there are nearly equal increases for both defense and non-defense spending programs under the compromise.
“I encouraged President Trump yesterday to hold the line in the budget negotiations. Speaker Pelosi’s big government agenda will drive our nation into bankruptcy unless conservatives demand more fiscal responsibility,” Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), head of the Republican Study Committee, tweeted Monday. “With federal debt at more than $22 trillion and counting, this is not a game.”
The budget deal puts Trump on track for another $1 trillion-dollar deficit this year — something Trump’s GOP critics have seized on, including former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who is weighing a presidential bid against Trump.
There is at least one tenet of the budget deal that conservatives are cheering: a verbal agreement from Pelosi to not include any “poison pill” policy language in upcoming spending bills. That means Democrats cannot seek to get rid of the Hyde Amendment prohibition on using federal funds for abortion, or further restrict Trump’s use of Pentagon money for his border wall project until legal challenges on the issue are resolved.
Still, Senate Republicans fear a repeat of the painful shutdown earlier this year, when a group of conservatives close to the president pushed him to reject a bipartisan compromise after the Senate had already taken a tough vote.
“I am waiting to see the details of any budget agreement before passing judgment, but I don’t see any significant support coming from conservatives for the deal that is being outlined in the press,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a top Trump ally and chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.
“If the poison pill prohibition allows for continued ICE/CBP operations and border wall construction,” he added, “then perhaps the outlook will not be as bleak.”
John Bresnahan, Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle contributed to this report.