Just hours before a deadline, Congress has averted a government shutdown by working on a short-term spending bill and a broader deal to fund agencies through September. If the extension is not approved today, federal agencies will run out of money by midnight tonight. One of the key disputes stemmed from Trump’s demands that the government funding bill allocate $1.4 billion for border wall construction. “We don’t have a budget. We have a continuing resolution where basically we’re operating under last year’s numbers,” says Vermont Congressmember Peter Welch, chief deputy whip of the House Democratic Caucus. “The fundamental responsibility of the legislative body is to pass a budget. We have not done that during the entire time that Paul Ryan has been the speaker of the House. It has not gone well.” This comes as House Republicans have called off their efforts to revive a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, preventing President Trump from winning his first major legislative victory ahead of Saturday, which marks his 100th day in office.
AMY GOODMAN: Just hours before a deadline, Congress has averted a government shutdown by working on a short-term spending bill and a broader deal to fund agencies through September. Without the extension, federal agencies would run out of money by midnight tonight. One of the key disputes stemmed from Trump’s demands that the government funding bill allocate $1.4 billion for that border wall construction along the Mexico border.
In the midst of the negotiations, Trump lashed out at congressional Democrats Thursday with a series of tweets, writing, quote, “I promise to rebuild our military and secure our border. Democrats want to shut down the government. Politics!” he tweeted. White House spokesperson Sean Spicer addressed the budget fight during his daily press briefing.
PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: There needs to be a continuing resolution effective this Friday. The president has done everything possible, worked extremely hard with Congress to ensure that we maintain the government open—keep the government open. The Democrats at the last minute have come in and thrown a lot of monkey wrenches into the ability for this to get done, despite the president doing everything that he can to show good faith to keep this going.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking earlier this week, New York Senator Chuck Schumer expressed hope that a deal would be reached.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: The Democratic and Republican leaders of both the House and Senate, we’re making good progress. And I’m very hopeful we can get a budget done by Friday. We’ve asked the president not to interfere. If he doesn’t interfere, we can get this done. If he demands things, poison pills like the wall, which not only Democrats, but Republicans oppose—every single Republican on the border—Texas, Arizona, New Mexico—oppose it. We can get this done. So we’d ask him to let us do our work, not throw in some last-minute poison pills that could undo it, and we can get this done.
AMY GOODMAN: This comes as House Republicans have called off their efforts to revive a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The White House had been pushing for a vote as early as today, as President Trump sought to win his first major legislative victory ahead of Saturday, which marks his hundredth day in office. In just a moment, we’re going to Capitol Hill, where we’ll be joined from the Russell Rotunda by Vermont Congressmember Peter Welch, the chief deputy whip of the House Democratic Caucus. We’ll go to break and then come back with the Vermont congressmember. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Vermont PBS, as we continue our many-city tour around the country. We’ll be in Washington covering the People’s Climate March tomorrow from 10:00 in the morning Eastern to 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. But we’re right now joined in the Russell Rotunda by Vermont Congressmember Peter Welch, chief deputy whip of the House Democratic Caucus.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Congressman Welch. It’s great to have you with us. Can you start off by assessing President Trump’s first 100 days and where you are in Congress right now on this eve of the hundredth day?
REP. PETER WELCH: Well, it’s pretty much of a mess. The border wall that he promised has not gone up, thank goodness. The ban on Muslims coming into the country has been declared unconstitutional, so we’ve got a check and balance operating with the judiciary so far. We’re now having—the healthcare debate was a complete failure. So, a lot of the big-time promises that the president made, he’s failed to deliver on.
And the first hundred days, by the way, they really are important, because there’s three things the president can do in that hundred days. Number one, make good on promises that he made during the campaign. And what you’ve seen is an inability on the part of the president to do that.
And, number two, it’s an opportunity to create unity in the country. The president is given a honeymoon—any president, Republican or Democrat. And that requires them to reach out where there is some common ground. And there were two opportunities for President Bush [sic] that he squandered—or President Trump, that he squandered. One was the infrastructure, where a lot of us are ready to work with him, but they haven’t presented a plan. And two is on lowering the cost of prescription drugs, where the president, in the campaign and in office, has said he’s for that. Democrats are all in on that. But there’s no plan.
And then the third thing is that the president can identify what he or she is going to focus on in the next four years, and identify the big challenge in the country. And the big challenge in this country is income inequality. And everything that the president has proposed would intensify that, accelerate it, not diminish it. So I think it’s been a pretty poor showing for the first hundred days.
AMY GOODMAN: So, we all know that he did not succeed in repealing Obamacare the first time. And then there was this 11th hour effort to do it again. What happened?
REP. PETER WELCH: Well, it was never in the cards, because the plan is not even written. You know, what happened on healthcare is that the Republicans own this thing. They had kind of a lounge act, one of my Republican friends called it, where they attacked Obamacare for seven years. They said they had a replacement. The day to present the replacement arrived, and it wasn’t written. So, they really didn’t have a plan.
And what they substituted as a healthcare plan was something that was going to, in effect, be a tax cut. That’s really what it was. Twenty-four million people lost their healthcare over 10 years. And we were going to have a trillion-dollar shift out of healthcare as a tax cut that went essentially to people making over $250,000, but largely over a million dollars. And, Amy, the 400 wealthiest families in the country under that, quote, “healthcare bill” were going to get a check for $7 million.
So, this was not a healthcare plan. It was never written. And you had controversy on the Republican side between the Freedom Caucus, who wanted basically no coverage whatsoever, and the moderates, who were really concerned that some people in their district were going to lose their coverage. So it collapsed. And I think they’re still struggling with that conflict.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened with the spending bill? It has not yet been signed, as we go to broadcast. It hasn’t been voted on.
REP. PETER WELCH: Well, what’s happened is that there’s been an effort on the part of the president to inject other things in there, like defunding Planned Parenthood or money for the wall, which are nonstarters on the Democratic side. And they can’t get this—they can’t keep the lights on in government without some Democratic votes. But the Democrats, rightly—and I strongly support this—are unwilling to essentially have the keeping the lights on in government held hostage to get the wall that the president wants, wall funding or defunding Planned Parenthood. So, at the end of the day, I think they’re going to put down their demands, and we’ll keep the lights on in government.
But, Amy, let me give a little context. It’s now April, the end of April. The budget that we’re talking about was supposed to begin last October. And we don’t have a budget. We have a continuing resolution where basically we’re just operating under last year’s numbers. And the fundamental responsibility of a legislative body is to pass a budget. And we haven’t done that, I think, during the entire time that Paul Ryan has been the speaker of the House. So, it’s not gone well. And that’s actually really bad for the country.