THE BIG IDEA: Perhaps the best negotiators are not the people who tell everyone that they are the best negotiators.
A spending agreement was reached last night that will keep the government funded through the end of September. This will be the first significant bipartisan measure passed by Congress since Donald Trump took office.
-- The White House agreed to punt on a lot of the president’s top priorities until this fall to avert a shutdown on Friday and to clear the deck so that the House can pass a health-care bill. “This is going to be a great week,” Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, said on CBS this morning. “We're going to get health care down to the floor of the House. We're convinced we've got the votes, and we're going to keep moving on with our agenda.”
-- But Democrats are surprised by just how many concessions they extracted in the trillion-dollar deal, considering that Republicans have unified control of government.
Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen bragged during the campaign: “He’s an amazing negotiator, probably the best in this world.”
On Sunday, the president acknowledged he has a lot to learn. “I think the rules in Congress and, in particular the rules in the Senate, are unbelievably archaic and slow moving and, in many cases, unfair,” Trump said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “In many cases, you're forced to make deals that are not the deal you'd make. You'd make a much different kind of a deal. You're forced into situations that you hate to be forced into.”
-- Now that the language has posted, here are the eight most notable areas Trump caved in his first big spending negotiation:
1. There are explicit restrictions to block the border wall. We knew last week there would be no money to start construction on a project that the president says is more important to his base than anything else. But the final agreement goes further, putting strict limitations on how Trump can use new money for border security (e.g. to invest in new technology and repair existing fencing). Administration officials have insisted they already have the statutory authority to start building the wall under a 2006 law. This prevents such an end run.
The $1.5 billion for border security is also half as much as the White House requested. Additionally, there are no cuts in funding to sanctuary cities, something a federal judge said last week would be required for the Justice Department to follow through on its threats. And there is also no money for a deportation force.
2. Non-defense domestic spending will go up, despite the Trump team’s insistence he wouldn’t let that happen. The president called for $18 billion in cuts. Instead, he’s going to sign a budget with lots of sweeteners that grow the size of government. Mitch McConnell made sure $4.6 billion got put aside to permanently extend health benefits to 22,000 retired Appalachian coal miners and their families. Nancy Pelosi made sure $295 million was included to shore up Medicaid in Puerto Rico. Chuck Schumer got $61 million to reimburse local law enforcement agencies for the cost of protecting Trump when he travels to his residences in Florida and New York. There is also another $2 billion in disaster relief money for states, which bought a couple votes.
3. Barack Obama’s cancer moonshot is generously funded. The administration asked to slash spending at the National Institutes of Health by $1.2 billion for the rest of this fiscal year. Instead, the NIH will get a $2 billion boost — on top of the huge increase it got last year. Republican appropriators who care about biomedical research, including Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), delivered.
Trump also failed in his efforts to cut money for other kinds of scientific inquiry. For example, he proposed defunding the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy. Instead, it is getting a $15 million increase.
4. Trump fought to cut the Environmental Protection Agency by a third. The final deal trims its budget by just 1 percent, with no staff cuts. As part of a compromise, the EPA gets $80 million less than last year, but the budget is $8 billion.
5. He didn’t defund Planned Parenthood. Despite the best efforts of social conservatives, the group will continue to receive funding at current levels.
6. The president got less than half as much for the military as he said was necessary. Trump repeatedly prodded Congress to increase military spending by $30 billion. He’s getting $12.5 billion, with an additional $2.5 billion if/when he delivers a detailed plan on how to defeat the Islamic State. Many Democrats from states with bases and manufacturers, especially those up for reelection in 2018, wanted this, too. Like Trump, they will tout the increased spending as a victory. The White House plans to call this a down payment on a much bigger investment down the road.
7. Democrats say they forced Republicans to withdraw more than 160 riders. These unrelated policy measures, which each could have been a poison pill, would have done things like get rid of the fiduciary rule and water down environmental regulations. On the other side of the ledger, this budget blocks the Justice Department from restricting the dispensing of medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized.
8. To keep negotiations moving, the White House already agreed last week to continue paying Obamacare subsidies. This money, which goes to insurance companies, reduces out-of-pocket expenses for low-income people who get coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration justifies giving up on this because of the potential to resolve the bigger issue by repealing Obamacare.
The House is expected to easily pass this spending deal in the coming days.
-- Soon after the deal was reached last night, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi quickly put out celebratory statements. But McConnell and Paul Ryan did not.
-- The lack of aggressive messaging from Republican leadership, and especially the White House, late Sunday is one of the reasons that coverage is so lopsidedly bad for them in this morning’s papers and on cable news. Here are 10 examples:
“Overall, the compromise resembles more of an Obama administration-era budget than a Trump one,” Bloomberg reports.
The Associated Press calls it “a lowest-common-denominator measure that won't look too much different than the deal that could have been struck on Obama's watch last year.”
Reuters: “While Republicans control the House, Senate and White House, Democrats scored … significant victories in the deal.”
The Los Angeles Times describes the agreement as “something of an embarrassment to the White House”: “Trump engineered the fiscal standoff shortly after he was elected, insisting late last year that Congress should fund the government for only a few months so he could put his stamp on federal spending as the new president.”
The headline on FoxNews.com is “Spending bill language omits border wall funding, sanctuary cities crackdown”: “It also rejects White House budget director Mick Mulvaney's proposals to cut popular programs such as funding medical research and community development grants.”
New York Times A1: “The deal should spare Republicans the embarrassment of seeing the government shut down on their watch. But it also gave a glimpse of the reluctance of lawmakers to bend to Mr. Trump’s spending priorities, like his desire for sharp cuts to domestic programs.”
The Wall Street Journal’s headline notes the $2 billion for Obama’s moon shot, plus the EPA and Planned Parenthood being left intact.
“Congressional negotiators basically told the Trump administration to take a hike,” David Nather writes on Axios.
NPR says Democrats “flexed their leverage in spending negotiations.”
Vox: “Conservatives got almost nothing they wanted.”