For conservatives, the moment was the culmination of a growing frustration with how GOP leaders have run Congress since Trump took office. Already resentful of the leaders’ near-total secrecy in drafting legislation to de-fund the Affordable Care Act and overhaul the tax code, many Republicans are becoming more concerned that their party may not be able to deliver on any of its major legislative promises.
Trump’s deal “shows that the president wants to move the ball forward, and that’s not always going to be by agreeing with Republican leadership,” Jim Renacci, an Ohio Republican said in an interview.
Trump echoed that sentiment in a tweet Friday, showing his frustration with the GOP’s failed attempt to overhaul the ACA. “Republicans, sorry, but I’ve been hearing about Repeal & Replace for 7 years, didn’t happen!” he wrote, adding that the filibuster rule in the Senate will prevent Republicans from passing “even great legislation.”
The House today passed a hurricane relief bill that Trump negotiated 316-90. The measure, which funds the government through Dec. 8, includes a short-term suspension of the federal debt limit.
All 90 of the House members who voted against the bill are Republicans.
The party that controls both chambers of government and the White House should be thinking “five, 10, 100 years down the road,” Rep. Ted Yoho, a Florida Republican said Wednesday night. Congress has known for months that the U.S. government would run out of money sometime in October, Yoho said, so there’s no excuse for GOP leaders to be scrambling in the second week of September.
‘Crisis Management Mode’
“We’re in crisis management mode and we have been for too long,” Yoho said. With the big fights now put off until December, there’s no way to know who will have the upper hand in those future negotiations. “Heck, I don’t even know how it’ll play out at the end of this week.”
Conservatives pointed out that the debt ceiling showdown had been building for months. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin began using so-called extraordinary measures last spring when the debt limit snapped back into place after a previous suspension. He’d warned it would need to be raised in the fall.
Ryan said Hurricanes Harvey and Irma accelerated that timeline.
“We all thought we had more time, obviously, to deal with the debt-limit issue, and that’s before the hurricanes hit,” Ryan said Thursday. “So the president made a game call yesterday that he thought it is in our country’s interest to have a bipartisan support in a bipartisan package to deal with these ongoing hurricane disasters.”
A senior GOP aide also pushed back against complaints that House and Senate GOP leaders didn’t have a plan to deal with the debt limit. This aide, who asked not to be named when speaking about private conversations, said the operating plan had always been the White House’s strategy: a longer extension of the debt limit with no conditions attached.
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C. (Photo: Walker)
Even so, fiscal conservatives have been drafting spending proposals since last year that they say could have made a suspension or increase of the debt limit easier for Republicans to swallow. In May, the House Freedom Caucus, a tightly knit group of three dozen members, began demanding that Republicans act before a month-long recess in August to address the debt ceiling, paired with policies that would reduce government spending over time.
When asked what Ryan should be doing differently, Mark Meadows, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the Freedom Caucus, said the House needs longer-term plans, especially for passing measures like the debt limit in a way that reflects conservative priorities such as cutting federal spending.
No ‘Conservative Solution’