The fiscal 2019 appropriations Congress is sending the White House include much more spending than the president requested, don’t have most of the spending cuts he proposed, don’t provide the $5 billion he demanded for the wall he wants built between the United States and Mexico and don’t stop funding for Planned Parenthood.
That’s much more than just a slap of Trump’s face by the GOP-controlled House and Senate: It’s a crack upside his head with a 2×4.
And, in response to Congress’s almost wholesale rejection of his budget priorities, Trump did…wait for it…nothing, or at least nothing meaningful.
Yes, on multiple occasions over the past year Trump huffed and puffed and menacingly threatened to blow Congress’s house down by shutting the federal government if he didn’t get what he wanted.
But when faced with the opportunity this week to veto the legislation that didn’t provide any money for his wall and actually to shut down the government, Trump ran from the fight he had been threatening so loudly for so long. While he was 250 miles away from Capital Hill in New York, Trump meekly said he would avoid the confrontation with Congress and sign whatever he was sent.
In other words, Donald Trump is a federal budget wuss.
This was a not strategic retreat by the White House. If anything, it’s going to be even harder for Trump to get what he wants on spending and taxes in a lame duck session than it was before. This was his best chance.
This is especially true of funding for his wall. Congress has already refused multiple times to provide the funds Trump wants and that isn’t likely to change after the election. That’s particularly true if the Democratic wave many are predicting actually happens and Trump’s policies become even less important to Republicans.
It’s also true of Trump’s other budget priorities. The two “minibus” appropriations that Trump’s signature will enact will provide funding for the full fiscal year and include the majority of the spending the president gets to approve. Trump simply won’t be able to have that much of an impact on what’s left even if he tries.
But even more important than the rejection of his budget policies is the fact that Congress played Trump like a virtuoso and he was unable and unwilling to do anything about it.
That kind of weakness is always recognized and seldom, if ever, forgotten.
Follow Stan Collender on Twitter @thebudgetguy.