President Donald Trump’s request to Congress to cancel $15.4 billion in unspent government funds has a strong chance of clearing Congress because it doesn’t touch this year’s bipartisan spending bill.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said House Republicans reacted positively to the request when he presented it Tuesday morning behind closed doors. Mulvaney told lawmakers that the White House will send a separate request later in the year to cancel some funds from the $1.3 trillion 2018 omnibus spending bill, an idea that has met resistance from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell of Kentucky indicated openness to Tuesday’s proposal, telling reporters that if the House can pass it, the Senate will “take a look at it.” He said it wouldn’t renege on the 2018 spending bill.
The proposal is a Republican effort to claim fiscal responsibility after a deficit-increasing tax cut and higher spending in the omnibus bill. The effort comes as the GOP is struggling to keep control of the House and Senate in November elections.
“We will get the rescissions package passed,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California told reporters after the Tuesday meeting.
No House Republicans came out against the $15.4 billion request during the meeting, lawmakers said.
“There was no pushback whatsoever. In fact people said they want more,” said Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, who leads the conservative Republican Study Committee. He said the White House has more work to convince Senate Republicans.
The cuts can be adopted with a simple majority in the House and Senate, meaning Republicans could pass it without Democratic votes.
One obstacle in the Senate could be Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski.
“I don’t understand why we would go after CHIP,” she said Tuesday, referring to the Children’s Health Insurance Program. “It makes no sense to me.”
Under the rescission process, lawmakers can exclude some items from the president’s request.
The request would cancel $7 billion from prior years for CHIP, including $5 billion in funds that expired in September. The March spending bill canceled other leftover CHIP funds and used the money to boost domestic spending elsewhere. That bill was supported by lawmakers from both parties.