The Trump administration's timing could've been better. About an hour after First Lady Melania Trump announced an initiative to support the wellbeing of children, Attorney General Jeff Sessions unveiled a policy to separate immigrant children from their families as part of a border crackdown.
And shortly after that, the White House said it wants to cut funding for a popular children's health program as part of a controversial new budget move. The Washington Post reported:
President Trump is sending a plan to Congress that calls for stripping more than $15 billion in previously approved spending, with the hope that it will temper conservative angst over ballooning budget deficits.Almost half of the proposed cuts would come from two accounts within the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that White House officials said expired last year or are not expected to be drawn upon. An additional $800 million in cuts would come from money created by the Affordable Care Act in 2010 to test innovative payment and service delivery models.
In effect, Donald Trump is looking for a do-over on the budget agreement Congress already passed and the president already signed. Vocal elements on the far-right hated the bipartisan budget deal -- which, among other things, significantly increased government spending -- and the White House has been eager to address their criticisms.
This, evidently, is what Team Trump came up with: a "rescission" package that aims to cut $15 billion in spending that's already been authorized. (It's made possible under something called the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which rarely comes up in day-to-day conversation.)
Under the plan, Congress will have 45 days to either reject or agree to the White House's latest plan with majority-rule votes in both chambers. The next question, obviously, is whether Trump's gambit will work.
He probably shouldn't get his hopes up.
Several Senate Republicans warned the White House a month ago not to even try this move, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) explained a few weeks ago that the president "can't make an agreement one month and say, 'OK, we really didn't mean it,' and come back the next month." The GOP leader added, "He was involved in the negotiation and signed the bill."
Which is ultimately why Trump is probably making a mistake by even trying this move: the president is signaling to everyone that even after he makes a deal, and accepts the terms of the agreement, he's prone to come back soon after and try to alter the deal.
Indeed, McConnell isn't the only one who's voiced concerns. "My attitude is, your word is your bond," House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said last month when the White House first floated the possibility that this might happen.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added that Republicans should "keep our word" and "keep our agreements."
Democrats won't be able to filibuster the rescission vote, but I'm skeptical Trump's move will have 51 votes in the chamber.