Speaker Paul Ryan told House Republican colleagues that a spending bill will be ready in time to avert a potential government shutdown at week’s end, and keep agencies running and financed through the end of September.
Ryan provided few details of that bill, though, during a Saturday afternoon conference call with rank-and-file members, according to three members who participated.
There was no discussion of how any deal on a bill to keep government funded until the Oct. 1 start of a new fiscal year would resolve unsettled issues, including whether money would be provided for President Donald Trump’s promised wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
In an excerpt from an interview to be broadcast on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, John Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said he “would suspect” that Trump “will be on the funding” for the wall as negotiations to keep the government open move ahead. “It goes without saying that the president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall.”
Yet, the members said Ryan insisted a bill will be finalized between Congress and the White House before an existing spending measure expires and government funding dries up after April 28. Trump will mark his 100th day in office on April 29.
Neither the speaker nor several top lieutenants, who also spoke during the call, brought up the possible need for a shorter, stop-gap version of a spending bill to allow more time for negotiating, said the members, who spoke on the condition they not be identified so they could speak freely.
Ryan expressed urgency during the call for Republicans to show they can get something accomplished — even telling members their future as a majority party will depend on it. Ryan said Americans expect Republicans — who control both chambers of Congress as well as the White House — to govern, and that they’re entering a pivotal time, the members said.
Congressional Democrats, whose votes would be needed in the Senate and possibly also the House to pass such a spending bill, have said they won’t support money for Trump’s border wall.
Ryan said details of a spending bill deal would be unveiled when House members arrive back in Washington on Tuesday after their two-week spring recess.
All three members said Ryan made clear he didn’t want their discussions to be publicized. At one point, they said, the speaker explained his reluctance to lay out specifics because he didn’t trust that members of his own conference weren’t recording the meeting or even streaming live audio.
The call was described as brief — no more than 20 minutes.
The other topic discussed was efforts toward a new health care bill, after a Republican-led measure was pulled hours before a planned vote in the House in March.
Ryan said there’d been good progress on a new version, and complimented the work toward a compromise done by Representatives Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Tom MacArthur of New Jersey in narrowing the differences between conservative and moderate Republicans that helped to doom the previous effort.
Work is under way to draft text for the new version by the Energy and Commerce Committee, led by chairman Greg Walden of Oregon, who also spoke during the call. Ryan said on April 19 that lawmakers were already negotiating “finishing touches.”
During their recess, some Republican lawmakers have faced angry constitutions — many of them upset over the Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare — during town hall meetings in their home districts.
Ready to Work
Ryan told members he hoped they are returning to Washington recharged and ready to get to work.
But Ryan made no commitment on when a new version of a health bill might be brought to the floor for a vote, the members said.
A key House Republican lawmaker has said he expects a vote on a health bill during the first week in May. “The odds of that are pretty good,” Representative Dave Brat of Virginia, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said in a radio interview Friday with a Richmond radio station.
Brat said that if compromises that conservatives and moderates have worked out with the administration materialize when the bill is written, “that gets a lot of us toward a ‘yes,’ along with a couple of other items we’ve been negotiating.”
But reigniting talk that a vote is imminent risks another political embarrassment like the one in March, when Trump and Ryan abruptly scrapped a vote on an earlier version of a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Other leaders speaking on Saturday’s call were Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey also participated.