White House budget director Mick Mulvaney and legislative director Marc Short take questions on the $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill under consideration in Congress.
Mick Mulvaney "cuts right to the chase," saying the president will sign the spending bill if it passes. "Why? Because it funds his priorities. We've talked for the last... six months about trying to get the president's priorities funded, and this omnibus bill does that."
If it fails to pass by the end of Friday night, the government will enter a third shutdown in two months. The House Freedom Caucus and Sen. Rand Paul, who forced the last shutdown, say they will oppose this bill too.
Mulvaney lists the reasons to support it: "It actually starts taking a look at funding infrastructure and does... a lot of what we wanted on immigration."
"It is perfect? No. Is it exactly what we asked for in the budget? No. Were we ever going to get that? No."
"When appropriations bills have to have 60 votes in the Senate, as they do, you're going to have to rely on Democrat votes," Mulvaney said, adding that a "line-item veto" would be really nice right about now. "It would be a good time to look at the rules of the Senate that drive us to this type of end result."
MULVANEY: Thanks, Sarah. I'm just going to give you a brief opening statement, because I know the questions are probably what you all want to get to anyway.
Let's cut right to the chase. Is the president going to sign the bill? The answer is yes. Why? Because it funds his priorities. We've talked for the last, I don't know, three, four, five, six months about trying to get the president's priorities funded, and this omnibus bill does that. It funds national defense, as you heard Sarah mentioned. It gives the troops the increase that we were trying to get them in their -- in their compensation. It funds opioids. It funds school safety. It's tremendous increase into workforce development, something that doesn't get a lot of attention, but this administration has been putting since we got here.
It actually starts taking a look at funding infrastructure. And it also does a lot of what we wanted, not everything we wanted but a lot of what we wanted on immigration. So all things considered, when we look at the bill we have to weigh what we asked for and what we had to give away to get it.
Is it perfect? No. Is it exactly what we asked for in the budget? No. Were we ever going to get that? No, that's not how the process works. When appropriation bills have to have 60 votes in the Senate, which they do you're going to always have to rely on Democrat votes in a Republican majority.
Like that -- we need nine Democrats to support this bill, so there was no chance of everything that we wanted passing. This is probably a good opportunity to bring up the -- the idea of a line item veto. If the President had that, this bill would look a lot different by the time it became law.
But we do not have that opportunity. Be a good time to look at the rules in the Senate that drive us to these types of -- of end results. But all things considered, in the balance the President supports the bill, looks forward to signing it before -- before the funding of the last appropriations by midnight tomorrow night.
Do you want to say anything or do you want to ...
SHORT: Yeah, thanks Mick. Is -- Director Mulvaney can certainly give you guys more detail. His team puts together a budget that submits to Congress in February. Congress is supposed to complete an appropriations process by September 30th, at the end of the Fiscal Year.
What we've endured since then is six Continuing Resolutions, that Secretary Mattis has continued to tell us is debilitated in many cases what he needs to do. We have equipment that he is needing to repair, that he would rather purchase new equipment.
We have one of the greatest priorities here was to rebuild the military, and this bill will provide the largest year over year increase in defense spending since World War II. It'll be the largest increase for our men and women in uniform in salary in the last 10 years.
Additionally it provides, as we've talked about, one of our signature priorities regarding $1.6 billion for the wall. It also provides a 10 percent increase for ISIS budget, as well as a 12 percent increase for DHS overall. A couple additional things we were pleased in this bill, as you know, after the tragic school shootings.
There are a couple of legislative matters that we'd asked the Congress to adopt. One was the Cornyn Murphy bill, better known as Fix NICS, as well as the Stop School Violence Act, providing an additional $2 billion for school safety.
Focused on purchasing equipment and personnel, both of those bills are included in the omnibus, which we were very pleased about. So as Mick outlined from the start, this process is one that certainly leaves a lot to be desired.
And it's one in which the appropriations process in Congress has been broken now for 22 years. It's been 22 years since 1996 when it actually -- appropriations process worked and the President signed a bill. Instead, we've been left with Continuing Resolutions.
That leaves us with unfortunately somewhat of a Hobbesian choice of do you have a Continuing Resolution again, or do you actually begin to build the things that you laid out as priorities, including national security and border security.
So we're pleased with that, and hence the President has agreed to support the bill.
QUESTION: Director? So I hear from both of you a lot of talk about spending increases, defense, vice, infrastructure. $1.3 trillion to get us through to October. A lot about what is in here in terms of the money going out but none of the fiscal responsibility.
What happened to the Republican party? Republican party now controls all branches of government. What happened to you? I mean Director Mulvaney, your own colleagues with the freedom caucus called this bill an insult to the American taxpayer.
MULVANEY: I know Director Acosta is not here to answer that question, do you really expect me to give you the same answer I gave -- I gave Jim (ph)? We don't control all of the government. When you have to have 60 votes in the Senate, there's only 51 Republicans.
We do not control the Senate under the current rules. Therefore, we have to give the Democrats something. This is the same discussion that you and I had back when we cut the caps deal a couple months ago that led us here.
Remember this is the second -- the second step of the caps deal. We raised the caps a couple of months ago and now we spend up to the caps today. And in order to get the defense spending primarily, but all the -- rest of our priorities funded, we had to give away a lot of stuff that we didn't want to give away.
And would not have given away if we were really in charge of -- of the Senate. So no, this is -- this is how it works. This is what a bill looks like when you have 60 votes in the Senate, when the Democrats get a chance to take their pound of flesh in order to defend the nation.
And the fact ...
QUESTION: ... your former colleagues in the freedom caucus, is that -- I mean you wouldn't be voting for this ...
MULVANEY: Listen, there's going to be a bunch of folks who vote against us for a bunch of different reasons. Folks who vote against us because it spends too much money. There's going to be folks who vote against it because they weren't involved in the process and the leadership bypassed the committees.
There's going to be folks who vote against it because it has something in it that they don't like or it doesn't have something in it that they like. I've got a statement here from the Democrat Hispanic Caucus, it's like we call it the Democrat Hispanic Caucus because they don't let my Hispanic Republicans in the group.
That's Carlos and Mario -- Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart. It says the CHC cannot support this spending bill, as it would fund Trump's border wall and mass deportation force. OK? So there's a bunch of reasons that a bunch of different groups are going to vote against this bill. And different folks for different reasons.
QUESTION: Hi Director, I wonder if you can talk about your priorities as it relates to funding Planned Parenthood. There are a lot of Americans who feel very strongly against the idea that the federal government is doing something that they believe either should be done privately or in concert (ph) with the states.
And if I could follow, I want to ask you about your priority as it relates to the wall. When people see the other numbers, the wall doesn't seem like it's as high a priority as perhaps many Trump voters might have anticipated. Can you address that?
SHORT: Sure -- I'm sure Mick can add on the second one. But on the first one, I think this administration's very proud of our stand for life. From the very start this administration has stood for life in -- in beginning with the Mexico City policy.
Having the first Vice President of the United States actually speak in person to the March For Life rally. The President addressed this year, I think that we've been very proud of that record. If you look at this legislation, it maintains every single pro-life protection in high (ph) language and helm's (ph) language.
To make sure that no taxpayer dollars are going to fund abortions. That -- that is the truth in the bill. Regarding your second question on the border security, keep in mind this bill is for the next six months of this Fiscal Year.
$1.6 billion in wall funding is what we can expend over the next six months to actually do what we've been asked to do. And as the Director said, it actually ends up providing more miles and new construction than what we'd originally asked for.
MULVANEY: I'll go over the details of that if I can, because I don't this is been accurately reported. I think the Washington Times has an article out this morning about suggesting we change policy regarding asylum and a couple other things.
Those are inaccurate, and the AP's reporting that we can't build any of the prototype wall, that's inaccurate. Here's -- here's -- here's the line by line breakdown on the $1.6 billion. We asked for 28 miles of levee wall in the Rio Grande Valley, we got 25 in this package.
We asked for 32 miles of pedestrian wall in the Rio Grande Valley, we only got eight there. We asked for 14 miles in San Diego, OK? And we got all 14 miles. That includes building the new type of wall that the President actually visited last year, the -- the steel bollard fence with the concrete across the top.
All 14 miles funded in this bill. We didn't ask for any replacement barrier and we got 63 miles in the bill. We got more money than we asked for in technology, more money than we asked for in roads, more money than we asked for in facilities. MULVANEY: Air and Marine assets, Border Patrol vehicles, boats, weapons, more money we asked for -- than we asked for in a CBP (ph) hiring and retention, and exactly what we asked for in planning and design.
Did we get everything that we wanted, when it comes to immigration? Absolutely not. Did we get a DACA fix? No.
Let's make it clear: the president wanted a DACA fix as part of this deal. He had offered a large package of with a -- with a -- with a complete DACA fix for in term -- in exchange for the entire wall. He offered a small package, three years' worth of a DACA fix for three years' worth of wall. The Democrats in the House and the Senate have made it clear: They think they're winning in the courts, and they do not want to fix this legislatively. We've reached out to them again and again to try and fix DACA, and they refuse to engage on the topic.
But on this, we ended up asking for 74 miles' worth of wall. We get 110 -- not exactly what we wanted, where we wanted. Congress chose to ignore some of the suggestions that the CBP made on where the best kind of wall should go. That's unfortunate, and there's some other things we asked for that we did not get. There's some limitations on DHS that Congress put in the bill that we don't particularly care for. But generally speaking, we think this is a really, really good immigration package -- one of the reasons the Democrat Hispanic Caucus probably doesn't like it very much.
All right, to the gentleman in the back, and then we'll go there, and there. Yes, sir?
QUESTION: Yeah, if you put on the 14 miles in San Diego, is that replacing something that's already there, adding to it as a secondary -- Because I'm trying to understand how it is that in San Diego, you don't have any type of (ph) wall at all.
MULVANEY: Yeah, well, in San Diego, it's a secondary wall. So I don't know if -- have you ever been to the border in San Diego? So there -- there's -- there's the wall right on the border, and then there's the secondary wall. There's a two-wall system with some roads on both sides, and this is the secondary wall, which is -- which would be the -- another wall behind the first one, and it's the prototype that's, again, I -- I -- I don't know how to describe it. I don't know if it has a name, but it's the -- the bollard wall, the steel wall with the concrete across the top with a rounded covering in order to prevent grappling hooks to the wall.
QUESTION: On February 12th when you came in here, you said that really, the only way to get a serious wall was if you got a DACA deal.
QUESTION: Is that still stand? I mean...
MULVANEY: Listen, we got 110 miles we need -- 10 times that. We -- we want the whole wall funded. You've heard the president say he wants $25 billion to finish the wall, and we would love to have that.
I think what I said in February stands today, which is, the Congress will not give us that without a DACA fix, an immigration reform. And we want that, but they refused to do it.
SHORT: Just a little more clarity on that piece, because I think it's somewhat been underreported, as far as the president's commitment here. What was well covered, obviously, was the battle on the DACA fix earlier this winter. As part of the omnibus, the president put forward, said if we're not going to be able to do the things that we want for larger immigration reform on chain migration and diversity lottery, then what I would look to do is to protect those who are in this country, working hard who have DACA permits. Will you partner with me in doing that, and funding the wall? The Democrats said no.
We came back after multiple additional conversations to something the Democrats had asked for previously, which was, will you give us three years of wall funding for to keep these people here and protected for the next three years? The Democrats said no.
What is clear at this point is the Democrats do not want a solution to this. This a political weapon that they appreciate. They want to use the permit holders as political pawns in their game, and the president has tried to fix this problem and to solve it, and has offered multiple different proposals, yielding in many ways where we started. But it is absolutely clear that the Democrats do no longer want a legislative solution to DACA.
QUESTION: But on that point, Democrats said they never were interested in a short-term, two-and-a-half-year, three-year deal for DACA recipients. Is that fair, or not fair?
SHORT: We are being more than willing to negotiate on the terms of it, as well. The Democrats have shut down each and every one of those conversations throughout the omnibus, because they appreciate this is a political weapon. They do not want a solution to this problem.