WASHINGTON ― The Senate’s Republican lead appropriator warned President Donald Trump Friday against a year-long continuing resolution and support for an an eventual compromise with the Democratic-led House.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., met with Trump and lead officials from the White House budget office for an hour Friday morning amid fears the House’s initiation of presidential impeachment proceedings would further hinder the 2020 appropriations process.
The president is expected to sign a stopgap continuing resolution that will keep the government open past the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, and through Nov. 21. That would buy more time for negotiations over 2020 spending levels, which were derailed in part over border wall funding.
“I mentioned that if we didn’t move the process, I told them we would be looking at another CR for three or four weeks, probably another one, and then one for the year,” Shelby told reporters afterwards. “They don’t want that ― I don’t think they want that.”
For the Defense Department, the CR would explicitly prevent new start programs and multi-year activities, with some limited exceptions. Pentagon officials are generally accepting of short-term CRs, but they would likely lobby hard against a year-long CR.
Congress reached a bipartisan, two-year budget deal in July which set funding levels for defense and nonmilitary programs, but Democrats are disputing the Republican funding allocations, arguing they prioritize border wall funding over health care and education programs. They also reject Republican plan to backfill $3.6 billion in military construction funding diverted to the southern border wall.
The House impeachment probe has stoked fears of intensifying those partisan divisions, but Shelby said Trump did not seem preoccupied with impeachment at his meeting on Friday gave tacit approval for Congress to keep working towards a bipartisan compromise.
While debate has held up four of the 12 Senate spending bills including its $693 billion defense spending bill, lead appropriators want to several less controversial spending bills recently advanced by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“I said ‘We want regular order, let the process work.’ He can stop it or not; He indicated to me, move on,” Shelby said of his conversation with Trump. “I’m talking about regular order, to debate our bills, pass our bills, get to conference and go from there.”
Shelby requested the White House meeting to explain the “realities” of the budget process, in part that the divided Congress means Republicans must make compromise. Democrats control the House, but Republicans have fewer than the 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster.
“By moving the process, regular order, ultimately we’ll get to a conference where we can resolve our differences, maybe, and send a bill to the president,” Shelby said.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.