Congress avoided a government shutdown on Thursday by passing a massive, one trillion dollar spending bill — but it didn’t include many wins for Republicans. Now, the GOP is looking ahead to September, when the government will run out of money once again, determined that things will be different.
Although both sides have tried to spin the bill as a victory, some Republicans believe their party conceded too much to Democrats. Republicans said they got increased funding for border security and no additional money for Obamacare payments. But Democrats were able to keep funding for construction of the wall on the Mexican border out of the bill — a top Trump priority. There were also no cuts to Planned Parenthood in bill and there was even additional science spending.
The bill passed overwhelmingly through the Senate Thursday afternoon, on a 79-18 vote.
But some Republicans left the process feeling frustrated, wondering how, after winning the House, the Senate and the White House on a message of changing up Washington, they ended up in roughly the same place.
“Trump wins, has a clear agenda, Trump and Bernie both represent this new thing going on, and we did not embed that in our budget,” Rep. Dave Brat told BuzzFeed News. Brat voted no on the bill, which passed the House on Wednesday. “Drain the swamp, right? Where is that in the budget? No where. We fully funded the swamp.”
The spending bill keeps the government funded only through the remainder of fiscal year 2017, which ends on September 30. So members of Congress will have to return to the drawing board again before the end of the calendar year. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, who tweeted that the country needs a “good ‘shutdown’ in September,” are already looking ahead, with the hopes of incorporating more of Trump’s initiatives in the budget.
When asked on Wednesday what he thought the next budget would look like, Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta told reporters, “a lot different.”
“It will go through the appropriations, it will go through the regular order, hopefully,” Barletta said. “And we won’t have to, you know, accept things in there that we don’t like, or things that we wish were in there. It’ll be more of what we’d like to see.”
Some Senate Republicans said that the reason they didn’t get much out of this spending battle is because it was a quick fix, arguing that they’ll use the time between now and September to make more substantive changes for a full-year spending bill.
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford pointed in particular to funding for the wall, saying that it was never realistic to get something that big done in such a short period of time. "It's always kind of funny to me because the funding for the wall was never really a serious part of the conversation because it's a five-month funding bill. You can't actually do major wall funding in five months," Lankford told BuzzFeed News.
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said that while “it’s too early” to know whether Republicans can accomplish big things in the next spending bill, like funding the border wall, the extra time won’t hurt.
"It's a long time until September," he said, adding that Congress usually misses the deadline for spending bills, so they probably have even more time to work.
But Shelby also warned that they will have to make compromises because they need the Democrats in the Senate to help pass funding bills to avoid a government shutdown.
Still, he added: "There are a lot of ways to skin the cat."
When asked how negotiations would go differently for Republicans come September, Sen. John McCain was less confident.
"I don't know. I don't know," McCain said. "I think we have to go through the normal process of amendments and appropriations bills, one by one, taken up on the floor of the Senate with amendments. The Democrats blocked all those. So if we see this same movie again in September, it'll be another disgraceful performance."
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, who sits on the House Budget and Appropriations committees, said that he was frustrated by the process but pointed to increases in military spending and border security money as wins for Republicans.
“We got most of what we wanted this time,” Cole said. “The idea that they somehow won a bunch of victories is great spin, but it doesn’t match with reality. They certainly got some, but there’s nothing in my bill that I disagree with where I felt like I had to give something up.”
Democrats are already bracing themselves for a more difficult battle ahead.
“I anticipate this budget will be as bad as we think it is, the one coming for ‘18, and I guess I’m more optimistic about the House Republicans than I am about the White House,” Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat who sits on the Appropriations Committee, told BuzzFeed News. “Any time the president says we need a government shutdown, it’s bizarre and not particularly helpful.”
Asked whether he thought Republicans would be able to get more of what they want moving forward, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he didn’t know.
“I think the president setting priorities is key.”
Sen. Marco Rubio argued that in a bill to fund the entire U.S. government, you’re never going to get everything you want, adding that “the president deserves a chance to settle into office and get his proposals going.”
Asked if he was happy about the compromise, Rubio told BuzzFeed News "happy" was not the term he would use.
"This is not a place that produces a lot of happiness," Rubio said.